Barn owls are very important predators. They can be found almost anywhere in the world, especially in places with moderate climates. They prefer open areas that allow them to hunt and are known as Tyto Alba – cavity dwellers. It doesn’t matter what kind of cavity, either. They’ll set up their homes in natural cavities in trees, in caves, abandoned structures, and even man-made nest boxes.
Life of a Barn Owl
These owls usually reproduce between February and May, after selecting their nests a few months before in December or January. They usually lay one egg every couple of days and start to incubate them immediately. This means that each owlet hatches at a different time, which can cause up to a two week age difference between siblings.
Barn owls eat a lot. A family of barn owls can go through up to three thousand rodents and small birds during a single breeding season. This is because while grown barn owls may eat one rodent per night, their babies can eat up to five!
Strengths of a Barn Owl
Barn owls are incredible hunters. They are stealthy and can grab up their prey without being noticed. This is because they are extremely quiet fliers. Due to the specific shape of their wings, the turbulence of air gets broken up and reduces the amount of noise they make.
Not only that, but they have incredible vision and hearing. Their eyesight allows them to spot prey from far away. Plus, they’re able to move their heads around 270 degrees, which means nothing is out of their sight.
Their hearing is so good that they can pinpoint where their prey is, even if they can’t see them. This is because their ears are asymmetrical – this means that one ear is higher than the other and so they capture sounds at different times. As noise comes in, depending on which side it hits first, an owl is able to figure out if it came from above or below and from the left or right side.
Why Are They Important to Us?
These owls are very important to us humans. Because of how much they eat and how easy it is for them to choose a place to live, they are a natural way to combat pests. Setting up nest boxes in orchards, vineyards, and farms allows barn owls to move in and eat pests like voles or mice, which can ruin plants and crops.
From a scientific standpoint, they’re very useful in allowing us to study their environments. Barn owls are unique in that they eat their prey whole and then regurgitate a pellet of the bones and fur that they can’t digest. Scientists can study these pellets to learn more about their prey and see population trends for a specific area. Students can also use these pellets to learn more about the food chain and to dissect in a humane way.
Learn more in Christopher Montero’s classroom lesson on owls! Check it out here.
All the best,
Chris & the WERC Team