Next up in our owl series is the Common Barn Owl! Along with the Great Horned Owl, Common Barn Owls are the most commonly sighted owl in the region. When I go out to programs and exhibits with the Humans, I often overhear stories along the lines of, "I saw this HUGE owl the other day in my barn - what was it?" The answer is Common Barn Owl. However, they're not as big as they seem.
|c Jerry Liguari utahbirds.org|
One reason Barn Owls are so good at controlling rodent populations is that they're insatiable eaters. Catching and eating upwards of six vole-sized critters each night, they can really keep tight reins on the local population. Also, it's incredible how many pocket gophers they can fit into one stomach! Like most owls (including me), they generally swallow their food whole instead of ripping and tearing it like most other raptors do. And Barn Owls don't even blink when it comes to swallowing animals that seem impossibly large. Skip ahead to minute 3:30 in the video below to see what I mean.
The eating pace doesn't slow down at all when there are chicks in the nest, either. Barn Owls lay between four and seven eggs, so that's a lot of mouths to feed when they all hatch. And do they eat smaller, more appropriately sized food? No way. They eat just like mom and dad. It's unreal.
|Baby Barn Owls with a feather-duster "mom" at the RMRP|
Baby Barn Owls are a little goofy looking. Many Humans think they're adorable, while others think they look like alien pterodactyls. They certainly don't look much like their adult versions until they're many weeks along. Adult Barn Owls, on the other wing, are simply stunning birds. They're in the non-tufted class of owls, meaning they don't have ear tufts like I do. They still have extremely prominent facial discs, however, which is largely responsible for their success as hunters. Females of the species have slightly duskier coloration, with more brown on their faces and chests, while males are more of the snowy-white variety. This often leads to people thinking Barn Owls and Snowy Owls are the same thing, but as you can see in this picture, they're very dissimilar. For the record, Harry Potter had a Snowy Owl, not a Barn Owl.
|Snowy Owl on the left, Common Barn Owl on the right|
|Educational female Barn Owl foster mom guarding her charge|
|Educational Ambassador for the RMRP, male Barn Owl|
So, there you have it, the uncommon Barn Owl. Stay tuned next week for a profile on the Mexican Spotted Owl. As always, you can email me with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on Twitter @RaptorProgram, check us out on Facebook (Rocky Mountain Raptor Program), and find out more information and stories on our main website. If you would like to subscribe to this blog, use the box in the toolbar to the right.
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