The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is the most widely distributed species of owl, and one of the most widespread of all birds. It is also referred to as Common Barn Owl, to distinguish it from other species in the barn-owl family Tytonidae. These form one of two main lineages of living owls, the other being the typical owls (Strigidae). T. alba is found almost anywhere in the world except polar and desert regions, Asia north of the Alpide belt, most of Indonesia, and the Pacific islands.
Habitat and ecology:
Tyto alba is nocturnal as usual for owls, but it often becomes active shortly before dusk already and can sometimes be seen during the day, when it relocates from a sleeping place it does not like. This is a bird of open country such as farmland or grassland with some interspersed woodland.
It hunts by flying low and slowly over an area of open ground, hovering over spots that conceal potential prey. They may also use fence posts or other lookouts to ambush prey. The Barn Owl feeds primarily on small vertebrates, particularly rodents. Studies have shown that an individual Barn Owl may eat one or more rodents per night; a nesting pair and their young can eat more than 1,000 rodents per year.
Status and conservation:
Barn Owls are relatively common throughout most of their range and not considered globally threatened. However, locally severe declines from organochlorine (e.g. DDT) poisoning in the mid-20th century and rodenticides in the late 20th century have affected some populations. While the Barn Owl is prolific and able to recover from short-term population decreases, they are not as common in some places as they used to be. The most 1995-1997 survey put their British population at between 3,000 to 5,000 breeding pairs.