Scientific Name: Tyto alba
Finn Burton, Canberra
Charlotte Robb, Kariong
Ram Shankar Shanmugam, Westmead
Although owls swallow every part of their prey, the indigestible parts like bones are regurgitated as a pellet at a later date. These can often be found in a pile beneath a favourite roost and provide an accurate picture of the bird's recent meals.
Male and female barn owls are identical in their colouration. The round, pure white face, punctuated by two large black eyes, is edged with light brown. The top of the head, neck and back are greyish-brown, spotted with numerous flecks of black and white. The chest is white with darker flecks. A fully grown barn owl measures 35-40cm in length.
Found throughout the country, the species prefers more open habitats than the forest home of the closely related masked owl. By day they roost on a sheltered perch remaining almost motionless for long periods. The barn owl is one of the most widely distributed birds in the world, occurring in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas as well as Australia.
Most of the food consists of mice, particularly the introduced house mouse. However, a variety of small mammals are taken as well as reptiles, birds and even large insects. The exceptional hearing and soundless flight enable the barn owl to locate its prey from long distances away and swoop down for the kill totally undetected.
Outside the breeding season they are mostly solitary birds, pairing to produce 3-7 white eggs, which are laid in a tree hollow. For ten weeks the parents bring a constant supply of food to the chicks until they leave the nest.