Barn Owl

Barn Owl © JBeaufort

Tyto alba
Year-round resident

The distinctive calls of barn owls can be heard at dusk or night in Edgewood’s grasslands. Barn owls are nocturnal raptors, meaning they are most active then.


With its pale face, dark eyes, and a buffy, speckled back, the barn owl is easy to recognize. Like many other raptors, females tend to be larger than males and they also may be more buffy. Scientists have several hypotheses for why this size difference exists.

At Edgewood

In Fall 2020, we placed a barn owl nest box on the Clarkia Trail across from a stand of yerba santa. Barn owls can nest in places that provide protection such as tree holes, riverbank burrows, and even barn eaves, and they may roost in their nests year round. Are you wondering why the nest box is white? The color white reflects light, reducing heat absorption, so the chicks don’t get too hot.


The dish-shaped faces of barn owls channel sounds to their sensitive ears, allowing them to detect small animals in the open habitats.

A barn owl can swoop right by you without making a sound! Like other owl species, barn owls have many special adaptations, including their stealthy quiet feathers to hunt unwary prey at night. The leading edge of their flight feathers have comb-like projections, their feathers have a soft fuzzy coating, and they have large, rounded wings, all of which help keep them quiet while flying.

Since barn owls are hard to spot, look for signs of their presence in Edgewood, such as pellets they regurgitate or dropped feathers fluttering in a breeze.

Barn Owl Nest Box © BMoore

Learn More

Learn more about barn owls on All About Birds.

Andrews, C.G. 2019, Apr 9. Owls Have Heads Designed for Hearing. Natural Habitat Adventures.

Barn Owl Trust. 2015. Barn Owl Pellet Analysis and Dissection.

Barn Owl Trust. 2015. Pictures of Barn Owl Feathers.

Owl Research Institute. Owl Adaptations.

Wagner, H., et al. 2017, Feb. 6. Features of Owl Wings That Promote Silent Flight. Interface Focus 7:1. Royal Society Publishing.


Beaufort, J. Barn Owl [photo].

Cornell University. 2019. Barn Owl. All About Birds.

Fallon, K. 2018, Mar. 12. Why Are Female Birds of Prey Bigger? Audubon.