Barn Owl – The Elegant & Silent Hunter of the Darker Skies

Barn Owl - The Silent Hunter of the Night

Barn Owl – Description

Nocturnality is a skill very few master for survival. Among the bird species, only a handful exhibits nocturnal behavior in precision hunting. Barn Owl, the nocturnal predator hunts with a keen sense of hearing, smell and vision.  The ability to skim in absolute silence makes it one of a kind. Barn’s are named on their extensive preference over residence in the wooden barns which today is on the verge of decline. Unlike other members of the owl family, Barn Owl can hunt in daylight and this behavior has been spotted across the globe.

Barn Owl’s habitat is not restricted to a particular region. Its reign extends beyond rural territories, deserts, forests, and wetlands to the urban areas. The unique ability of silent flight helps it adapt, hunt, and survive in diverse environments. The ability to fly silently is attributable to its compact body, larger wings with sharp edges, and oil-free feathers. Barn Owl’s wingspan ranging up to 44 inches with a minimal stroke generates sufficient momentum to glide with ease. The sharp feather edges effortlessly slice the air layers leaving no trace of its flight.

Heart-shaped facial disk streams and siphons the sounds to the supersensitive ears hidden within feathers. Ears hidden behind the facial disk are capable of picking up the slightest of murmurs from the prey. Long legs coated in feathers and claws are healthily contrasted to similar predators in the avian kingdom.  The downward-facing razor-sharp beak is a specialized weapon in killing and tearing the flesh with ease.

Barn Owl’s habitat is diverse but prefers closed premises as a haven. Camouflaging outdoors doesn’t blend well having white plumage with black, brown, and gray spots on wings. It continues to reside and nest in abandoned buildings, caves, towers, and tree hollows. Their selective behavior in choosing habitats has always been a topic for discussion. They have compassion in dwelling close to human settlement. Barn Owl’s diet includes arthropods, bats, and rodents those abundant in territories of human settlement.

Among Barn Owls, the females are larger than the males. During the nesting phase, the male imprints on a fine settling ground. The male defends it from other males attempting to take over until he wins a potential partner.  Unlike other birds, the owl nests are not made of twigs. A scrape is dug out and four to five eggs are laid. The eggs hatch after a month of incubation period and the young ones are fed taking turns by the parents.  The chicks mature within a year and fly off in search of new nesting grounds. Barn Owl’s lifespan is measured to be 4 years out in the wild and somewhat longer in captivity.

Authors Perspective

Over the centuries, owls are hunted owing to misbelieves and superstitions spread far and wide. They are assumed to be the bringer of darkness and presumed a bad omen. This myth paved way for a subsequent decline in the owl populace attributable to extensive hunting. The demolition of old buildings and likely habitat loss has considerably reduced the nesting grounds for Barn Owls. Several incidents of owl falling victim to fences, fishing lines, and nets have been accounted for the increasing threat to the species existence. Excessive use of pesticides and pest control mechanisms have made it even tougher for the silent hunters to find prey for their survival.