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Barn Owl

Barn Owl
   Photo: Mark Peck

Features: The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is easily identified by its whitish heart-shaped face, black eyes, pale, lightly speckled under parts, and long legs. Unlike many other owls that hoot or whistle, the Barn Owl's call consists of hisses, screams, cries and other strange noises. This adaptable owl nests in barns and abandoned buildings, but it also uses natural cavities in trees, or holes in cliff faces, as it did long before the arrival of Europeans in North America. It lives year round at its nest site and hunts for rodents over orchards, and grassland type habitats, including farmlands, fields and meadows.

Status: Endangered Provincially and Nationally

Range: The Barn Owl has a widespread global distribution, and inhabits parts of all continents except Antarctica. In Canada, the species breeds only in extreme southern Ontario and British Columbia. While formerly up to 30 pairs may have bred in Ontario, it is now thought that the species may be extirpated in the province. Owing to the Barn Owl's inability to tolerate severe winter temperatures, breeding sites in this province appear to be restricted to areas within the moderating influence of the Great Lakes. The Barn Owl is extirpated in Michigan and has declined in other states in the northeastern and midwestern United States

Threats: Severe winter conditions limit the ability of the Barn Owl to survive in Ontario, at the northern limits of its range. Grassland type habitats preferred by the species are under ongoing threat from urbanization and changing farm practices.

Protection: The Barn Owl is listed under Ontario's Endangered Species Act, 2007, which protects the species from being killed, harmed, possessed, collected or sold. In Ontario the Barn Owl is protected under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. In addition, the Natural Heritage component of the Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act provides for the protection of significant habitat of threatened species. A Recovery Group has erected nest boxes for the Barn Owl in suitable habitat. Information on the Ontario Barn Owl Recovery Project can be found on the Bird Studies Canada website.

Text Sources: Austen et al. 1994; Bull and Farrand 1977; Campbell and Campbell 1982; Godfrey 1986

Last Modified Date: October 2008



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