Barn Owl

Tyto alba

NH Conservation Status: Not listed

State Rank Status: No data for NH. Occasional visitor approximately once every 3-5 years. Population trend unknown.

Distribution: One breeding record exists from the town of Hollis in 1977. Barn owls are known to breed in Massachusetts and may occasionally be seen in south-eastern New Hampshire.

Description: Up to 16” long and up to 49” wingspan. Body color is white with brown-gray markings on the back and top of wings. Face has a distinct white colored heart shaped disc outlined with brown.

Voice: Both males and females make a harsh screech sound that lasts about 2 seconds, a softer purr, as well as barks and hiss. They do not hoot.

Commonly Confused Species: In flight short-eared owls have similar white color underparts but also have more distinct streaks on the chest and dark crescent markings on the underside of each wing. Snowy owls are larger in size, lack the heart shaped facial disk and are more uniformly white overall. Barn owls may perhaps be most commonly confused with barred owls – not due to appearance but similar sounding names.

Habitat: Open areas such as fields, pastures, meadows, or marshes with barns, silos, churches or other buildings or natural tree cavities nearby for nesting.

Nesting: Females nest in a variety of man-made structures, including barns, from which it gets its name. Also nests sometimes in natural tree cavities or nest boxes. Nests are constructed from shredded pieces of the females regurgitated pellets and often are used for multiple years. A full clutch consists typically consists of 5-7 eggs which the females incubate for up to 34 days. Barn owls have one of the longest nestling periods lasting up to 60 days.

Diet: Primarily small mammals that are active at night and that they can swallow whole such as mice, voles and shrews. Breeding females will sometimes store food at the nest site to feed to young when they hatch. Pellets are regurgitated twice per day.