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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cute Animal Feature - Barn Owls

Barn owls, Tyto alba, is the most common and widely distributed owl species, as well as one of the most widespread bird specie, on earth. These birds are often called the common barn owl, which helps distinguish it from the other species in its family (Tytonidae). The barn owl can be found in almost every part of the world, except from the desert and polar regions, areas north of the Himalayas, majority of Indonesia, and certain Pacific islands.
It’s seen in all continents, except Antarctica. The barn owl’s range covers all of Europe (except Malta and Fennoscandia), most of the area of Africa and parts of the Sahara, the indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, all of Australia, many of the Pacific islands, and North, Central, and South America. Barn owls are considered to be sedentary, which means that they prefer to stay in one area where they can find food and mate. They would even stay there even when there are better foraging areas nearby. However, their movements seem to vary depending on where they are located. Barn owls in the United States and Europe travel the most distance, averaging at 998 mi. Those in other areas of the world would travel an average distances of 400 mi.

This medium sized bird has pale-colored feathers with long wings and a short, square tail. Sizes vary from subspecies with an average measurement of around 33 to 39 cm (13 to 15 in) in overall length, and a wingspan of 80 to 95 cm (31 to 37 in). They also vary in weight, depending on their location. Some weigh at 260 g (9.2 oz) while other can reach a whooping 555 g (19.6 oz). Researchers have generalised that those who live in smaller islands are smaller and lighter, mainly because of their diet, which is mainly composed of insects.  These birds also need to be lighter to help them stay agile while hunting through the forests.

Barn owls have a very specifically shaped tail what helps distinguish them from other owls while on flight. Other features that make them stand out are their undulating flight pattern and feather-covered legs that they dangle while flying. Their pale, heart-shaped face and black eyes give these birds a distinguishing look, which looks like a flat mask that has oversized, oblique black eye slits. Above their beak, these birds have a ridge of feathers that resembles a nose.

These birds come in a range of color between pale brown and shades of grey. Some of the subspecies that have a more richer brown color have small black and white speckles all over their body, but these are not as visible on their main wing feathers. Their heart-shaped face is commonly a bright white, however some have facial feathers in brown. The lower parts of their body, which includes the lower leg feathers, varies from white to reddish and may have little blacking-brown speckles.

Their spots are actually an indicator of how healthy they are. In the case of the female continental European populations of barn owls, female specimen who had more spotting were recorded to be healthier compared to those who had little to no spots. However, this does not apply to males since spotting varies across subspecies. Also, males tend to show fewer spots on the breast and underside and are paler in color compared to females. Their beaks come in a
variety of pale horn to dark buff, and their iris is blackish brown. Like their beaks, talons vary in color, ranging from dark pink to a pinkish-grey to black. 

Contrary to what most people believe, barn owls actually don’t hoot. Hooting is typically done by tawny owls and members of the Strix genus. Barn owls actually make a shrieking/screaming sound which can be ear shattering when you get too close. This long, drawn-out shriek is really more eerie than cute, but their looks compensate for their call. They can make a hissing sound, similar to that of a snake, to scare intruders away. It also makes a range of rasping sounds or clicking snaps when defending itself. During mating, males give out a shrill twitter, which signals the females that they are ready to mate.

Although barn owls are very common, there has been a great decline in their population since the end of the Second World War. this is mainly due to the conversion of their  natural habitats into farmlands, towns, suburbs, and other areas used for human dwelling.

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