Barn owl bird (Tyto alba)
The barn owl may be nearly as pale and white as a snowy owl but there is no mistaking this attractive white owl with brown feathers. They tend to avoid tawny owls who could attack them. They have longer wings than tawny owls and can silently fly over open countryside whereas tawny owls stay in their woodland homes. Tawny owls make the twit-twoo sound but barn owls only shriek.
Barn owls have marvelous hearing. The feathers that form the barn owls heart-shaped face is actually a sound amplifying disc. These feathers can be moved by the barn owl to capture the slightest sound of a vole, shrew or mouse. The barn owls soft plumage and specialised noise reducing hairs enable them to fly and hunt in silence.
The barn owl has been considered a bird of ill omen and impending doom. This may be because barn owls hunt in graveyards and nest in ruins, old bell towers and abandoned buildings. However they have also been welcomed by man because they kill rats and mice.
Barn owls will nest in barns where access holes and high nesting ledges are available. The female barn owl lays between three to seven oval-shaped eggs. The young owlets survival depends upon the availability of food. The young barn owlets also need to learn to hunt and survive their first winter to raise their own families.
These enigmatic British owls are a wonderful bird to see in flight gliding silently over a field at dawn and dusk. Barn owls are sometimes seen on fence posts.
This barn owl picture was painted using Windsor and Newton artist watercolour paints. Unusually for me, this was painted on smooth, hot-pressed botanical Fabriano Artistico paper where I was able to capture some subtlety in the wing colours.
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