Scientific Name: Tyto alba
Ghostly pale and strictly nocturnal, the Barn Owl specie is the most widely distributed owl and most widespread of all birds in the world. Barn Owls are medium-sized owls that grow to about 10-12 inches in height. Their physical attributes are characterized by large dark eyes, soft feathering, clawed toes, ability to turn their heads 180 degrees, heart-shaped faces, and well-developed facial disks that allow it to have extraordinary hearing capabilities. Another peculiarity of this bird is its eerie, raspy call unlike the hoot of other owls.
Barn Owls are capable of living in various habitats ranging from grasslands to marshes, strips of forests to cities. Additionally, they withstand various temperatures—from tropical Belize weather to snow storms. This specie nests in tree cavities, caves, and human-made buildings and also participates in communal nesting. In fact, there was an occasion when 30 birds were found living in the same area! Speaking about nesting, female Barn Owls are able to hatch up to 13 dull white coloured eggs (a strange amount for a raptor of this size); nevertheless, 3 to 7 eggs is a more common number.
Barn Owls have excellent low-light vision and can easily prey during dark hours; in fact, they hunt 3 times per night—near dusk, midnight, and dawn. Their ability to locate prey by sound alone is just as exemplary and allows them to catch prey in total darkness or under low visibility. Their diet consists of both small rodents like rats and lemmings and birds such as blackbirds and starlings. Barn Owls swallow their prey whole and often store for later, either to feed themselves or their young. Instead of passing food intake through their digestive tracts, these owls spit out pellets about twice a day—mainly composed of fur and bones of their prey. These pellets, in turn, are shredded and arranged by the female to create the nest.
Because of their secretive and cautious behavior, Barn Owls are hard to spot. However, on your next Belize birding tour you just might be lucky!