With heart shaped face, buff back and wings and pure white underparts, the barn owl is a distinctive and much loved countryside bird. The face and underbelly of the barn owl are white. The back and wings are mottled brown. In flight the barn owl has an almost ghostlike appearance. This is enhanced by the fact that the owl's wing feathers are constructed in such a way that its flight is silent.
Widely distributed across the UK, and indeed the world, the bird has suffered declines over the past fifty years as a result of the degradation of once prey-rich habitats in the face of intensive agricultural practices. This decline, fortunately, has halted in many areas and the population may now be increasing.
Where to see it:
Barn owls, as their name suggests, nest in barns and farm buildings. They also nest in churches and hollow trees. Their natural habitat tends to be around farmland as they like to hunt over large expanses of open ground such as farm fields.
Barn owls are typically nocturnal, although they can sometimes be spotted hunting during the day, especially when they have young to feed. They sometimes hunt birds, but mostly hunt small mammals, in particular, short-tailed voles, using sound to detect their prey.
Barn owls do not hoot, instead they emit a long, eerie screech (hence its alternative name, the screech owl). They also hiss, snore and yap.