Barn Owl photo by Andrew Schopieray

Barn Owl

This is a medium sized owl with a distinctive, large head with a white, heart-shaped face and small dark eyes; legs are long, wings are broad but fairly pointed. Plumage is pale tawny in both sexes, with the male having pale to white undersides of body and wings. Females are slightly larger in body size, as with most other raptors, and may be darker. Flight is silent, swift, and buoyant. The relatively small eyes and the sound-gathering feathered facial disc of the Barn Owl indicate its ability to hunt by sound only, throughout the darkest hours of the night or for prey in tall grass.


Meet our resident Barn Owls:

Nani and Soren, After years of sharing an enclosure and foster parent duties for orphaned Barn Owls, they have become a bonded pair. It is extremely rare for raptors in captivity to bond, especially ones who are socialized to humans. Nani and Soren will no longer be on exhibit – instead they shift their duties to the Rehabilitation Team to become full-time foster parents to the dozens of orphaned Barn Owls we receive every year. Come spring, this unique and amazing pair will be very busy. We'll keep you posted!

Nani came into care when a farmer, needing to break into a stack of hay, destroyed her nest. She was the 'runt' of the clutch, nearly comatose, and only about half the size of her two siblings when found. We do not know if she was unable to compete for food with her much bigger nest mates or if her parents sensed there was something wrong and simply did not feed her. As she was growing, she was always a couple of weeks behind the other two developmentally. Both wings had 'green stick fractures' of the radius and ulna (breaks that don't go all the way through the bone), causing a deformity of both wings and making it impossible for her to fly well enough for release. She came to the Cascades Raptor Center in June 2008 when she was about 2 months old.

When Soren was less than a week old, his nest was disturbed accidentally when a farmer moved some hay bales. His siblings were all killed and he fell awkwardly, breaking two toes on his right foot and pulling a muscle in his left leg. He could not stand nor even sit back on his hocks for weeks. The intensive care he needed, and the lack of other Barn Owls at such an impressionable age, caused him to become highly socialized to humans which prevented his release. When Soren was two months old when he came to the Cascades Raptor Center in June 2008.

Adoptive "Parents" of Nani & Soren:
Sue Holcomb  •  Barbara Nill •  Courtney Brown  •  The Kautz Family of Wisely Organics  •  Vicky Mello
The Wyatt-Stone Family  •  Janet McClennen & Tom Buckhouse

Padawan was found as a nestling on the ground of a veneer manufacturing plant in Junction City OR, in early May 2011. Although he was immediately placed with other young Barn Owls, it was obvious within a very few days that he was not normal: he did not demonstrate normal fear responses, even when the other nestlings were reacting to the sight of people. He was slow to develop and was physically stunted. It was felt that he was developmentally disabled and would not have any chance of survival in the wild. Since he is comfortable around humans, he has become an excellent fully-flighted education bird. He is an integral part of the Education Team where he is a quick learner. To help demonstrate the style in which Barn Owls hunt, Padawan will do hover flights and pounce on objects with his feet. 

Adoptive "Parents" of Padawan:
Linda Gray & Cayden Cooper in memory of our beloved Andrea  •  Bruce & Pam Howard  
Benjamin Rinaldi •  Michele Dearmas  •  The Wollen Family  •  Menna Dickinson 
Elena Rudy  •  Michael McClintick & Jennifer Spry  •  Mary Mucciolo   •  Adilynn Wier  
Tove Sorensen   •  The Mulbry Family  •  Jason Bischoff   •  Staci Johnson  •  Kate Goldman  
Bryan Hess  •  Linda Schaefers  • Taylor & Eric Lesner  •  Richard Glassman


Scientific Name

Tyto alba


Length 17" ave.
Wing Span 45" ave.
Weight 15.6 oz. ave.


Length 17" ave.
Wing Span 45" ave.
Weight 17.3 oz. ave.


State and federally protected; listed as endangered in many mid-western and eastern states; declining in Great Britain. 


Widespread, but not common, in areas with lots of open fields, marshes, and pasture for hunting and large hollow trees or numerous old buildings for breeding sites. Less common in open countryside that has been intensely cultivated. 


Diet - Hunts by extended solitary flights over open ground, often following favorite routes. Eats any small mammals to be found at dusk and into the night in open habitats - primarily voles, shrews, mice and other rodents. Average prey size is generally smaller than that of great horned owls that may inhabit the same area. In places where the larger great horned owls are present, barn owls may hunt only in hours of darkness, not only to avoid competing for food with the larger, more crepuscular owl species, but to avoid falling prey to them as well. 


This nocturnal species uses a great variety of calls, from screaming, screeching, hissing, purring notes, to a repeating wheezy hiss called "snoring." The most common call is a hissing shriek: cssssshhH. 


Originally nested in caves, cliff faces, and hollow trees, but take advantage of barns, attics, and other man-made structures where these are available.

Most Common Problems

These owls are often hit by cars or trucks when flying low across or along roads at night. Nests built in places where human disturbance is likely, such as haystacks, buildings, and other structures, are often destroyed; young often fall from nests or fledge from nests into dangerous areas, such as manufacturing plants, warehouses, mills.

Range Map

One of the most widespread of all birds, the Barn Owl is resident throughout North America except in the northern Rockies and northern Great Plains, and extending south down to the tip of South America. Other races of Barn Owls occur throughout the world.


Special Thanks for range maps:

Dan Gleason
BGleason Design & Illustration
Commercial & Scientific Illustration, Graphic Design
CraneDance Communications
Book Production/Design