The barn owl with the big white mask


One of the raptors most common in the world, the barn owl is easily recognized by its large facial mask pale and his piercing little black eyes that give him a sharp night vision. Meeting with the white lady.

A heart-shaped mask

The barn owl (Tyto alba) or barn owl belongs to the order Strigiformes and to the family Tytonidae. The bird matters 10 subspecies whose appearance of plumages is very similar. The medium-sized raptor measures about 44 cm with a wingspan of 90 cm and a weight of 300 to 400 g. Around her small dark eyes, her face mask in the shape of a heart earned him the nickname of White Lady. The upper parts of its plumage are gray and red, finely dotted with white and black. The underparts range in shade from pure white to deep red, with or without spots.

The barn owl, sedentary bird

The species is found on all continents except Antarctica and some islands. She populates the wholeEurope, except Scandinavian countries and Malta. Its population is low in some eastern countries like Bulgaria. In France, the barn owl type alba breeds throughout the territory, except in areas mountainous from the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Massif Central because it does not withstand the cold. Throughout its range, the raptor is sedentary.

The barn owl in the steeples

The barn owl’s morphology and hunting method keep it away from forest environments dense and the bird frequents spaces more readily open (meadows, marshes, moors, steppes, savannas, agricultural fields). The barn owl does not fear the proximity of theman, we meet it in campaigns where she likes to make her nest in church steeples (hence her nickname), but also in old isolated buildings (hangars, barns, etc.).

Barn owl balls

The barn owl feeds primarily on rodents, especially voles which represent 95% of its meals. Next come the shrews and more rarely the big ones insects (beetles, grasshoppers), bats, small passerines (sparrows, starlings, swallows) and amphibians (especially frogs). The raptor consumes its prey entirely. After digestion, it rejects the indigestible remains (hair, feathers, elytra, etc.) twice a day through the mouth in the form of balls regurgitation. Which are oval and slightly flattened, black and shiny

The barn owl, night hunter

To hunt in the dark, the owl relies on two very developed senses: the view and thehearing. The shape of his eyes helps to focus as much light as possible on the retina giving it a very powerful night vision. His ears placed so asymmetric and sophisticated auditory mechanisms allow it to detect very low-intensity sounds and locate its prey down to the centimeter. The barn owl hunts most often in slow flight and quiet a few meters from the ground and sometimes on the lookout, perched on a dominant post. She then stings on her victim, grabs her with her greenhouses and kills it with a peck on the back of the skull.

Cave nesting for barn owls

Barn owls live in solitary and meet only for the period of reproduction which in Europe runs from March to June. This species monogamous breeds around the age of two and looks for a cavity to nest. Originally, the hole was frequently found in an old tree or a rock face. Nowadays, the raptor has adapted to the building human which it occupies mainly. As seen previously, the steeples are among the highly sought after sites for nesting.

Barn owl: vulnerable little ones

In Europe, the female lays between 3 and 7 eggs at the rate of one egg every two days. Provided by the male, the mother ensures theincubation which lasts about thirty days. Unable to eat and move around on their own, the chicks nesting depend entirely on adults for feeding for about 25 days. But their growth is rapid and the small very ravenous. They leave the nest at the age of about 2 months, making their first flight. Very vulnerable, only a third of them survive the two years following their birth (lack of food, predation …), a phenomenon partially compensated by a strong reproducibility.

Fatal collisions for the barn owl

Its main predators are the weasel (especially for eggs and young), ermine, cat and fox. Rich in rodents, the roadsides attract the barn owl. While flying at low altitude and dazzled by headlights, the raptor is often struck by vehicles. Road collisions thus represent 50% of the mortality in this species. The animal is also very sensitive to harsh winters during which very large losses are observed. Indeed, its very limited capacity to store a reserve of fat does not allow him to endure a fast of more than ten days. A prolonged snowpack can be fatal, the barn owl will readily invest a birdhouse artificial placed in a garden. This species protected has a longevity of 10 years.