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The Owls of North Dakota

Barn Owl
Tyto alba

JPG -- Picture of Species

The barn owl is a rather slim, pale owl with a large round head, no ear tufts, and a white heart-shaped face. It has long legs and long pointy wings with a light, mothlike flight. It stands 14-20 inches tall, has a 3 1/2 to 4 foot wingspan, and is rusty buff above and whitish below, speckled with black. The females are darker and slightly larger than the males.

The barn owl is found on all continents except Antarctica. In the western hemisphere, it is found from southern Canada to Tierra del Fuego, the southern tip of South America. It roosts during the day in large trees, barns, and old buildings.

Barn owls are considered a species of special concern throughout most of their range and are not common anywhere in the Midwest. They breed only sporadically in North Dakota, where they are considered rare.

The barn owl is a cavity nester. They do not make an actual nest but simply lay their eggs in the basin of a secluded spot. Some common nest sites include caves, barns, bird boxes, belfries, and abandoned mines. The female incubates the eggs while the male helps feed and guard the young. Barn owls are believed to remain mated for life.

The barn owl hunts at night over open fields and wetland edges, around granaries and barns, and in towns. It eats primarily mice, rats, ground squirrels and rabbits, but a small part of their diet also consists of small birds such as pigeons, blackbirds, sparrows, and swallows. The barn owl will occasionally fall prey to a great horned owl.

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