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Common Barn Owl, Tyto alba

Common Barn Owls, Tyto alba, occur in nearly every state, especially in temperate areas. However, because of habitat destruction, pesticides, and other human interventions, they are not as common as their name implies--and may never have been abundant in the Carolinas.

Common Barn Owls are especially nocturnal and are seldom seen; it is also unusual to hear their voice, which consists of chuckles, screams, snores, and hisses. They are tan-colored and appear almost ghost-like as they fly through the night. Their heart-shaped facial disk is distinctive.

Common Barn Owls nest in tree hollows, old barns, silos, steeples, abandoned houses and factories, and sometimes in nest boxes. Ideally, the "Ohio Style" box--which has been especially successful in the eastern U.S.--should be placed inside a barn or similar structure so the entrance hole of the box opens through the barn's outer wall. This configuration will prevent mammals such as Gray Squirrels from taking over the box and will also minimize predation. If possible, the box should overlook a meadow or marsh, from which an adult Common Barn Owl pair with young may take 15-40 rats and mice EACH night!

There has never been a sighting of Common Barn Owls at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, but occasionally we find primary wing feathers that indicate they are at least flying through and perhaps hunting on the property.

Click here for Barn Owl Nestbox Plans

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.