Common barn-owl

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The common barn-owl (Tyto alba) belongs to the family of owls, Tytonidae. These owl species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, Australia, Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia, Middle-East, Europe, North America, South America and Caribbean Islands. There are twenty eight recognized subspecies of these owl species and eleven of them are endemic to their native places.

Taxonomy of Common barn-owl

  • Scientific Name: Tyto alba
  • Common Name: Common barn-owl
  • French: Effraie des clochers; Russian: Обычный сипуха; Chinese: 共同的谷仓猫头鹰; Hindi: आम खलिहान-उल्लू; German: Schleiereule; Spanish: Lechuza común;
  • Other names: barn owl; Strix alba Scopoli, 1769; Strix pratincola Bonaparte, 1838; Tyto delicatula Gould, 1837;
  • Family: Tytonidae › Strigiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Scopoli, 1769)
There are twenty eight recognized subspecies of Tyto alba. It was earlier included in the genus Strix. Its synonyms are: Strix alba Scopoli, 1769, Strix pratincola Bonaparte, 1838 and Tyto delicatula Gould, 1837.

Description and identification

The common barn owl is a small/medium sized bird, measuring 30 to 45 cm in length and weighing 180 to 700 grams. The wingspan is 85 to 95 cm. The size varies widely among subspecies. The plumage on head and back is a mottled shade of grey or brown, depending upon the subspecies. The underparts vary from white to shades of brown, which may be mildly speckled in some subspecies. The face is white and is characteristic heart shaped. Their calls include screeches, wheezes, purrs and snoring sounds.
Indian birds - Common Barn owl - Tyto alba
Birds of India - Common Barn owl - Tyto alba
Birds of India - Common Barn owl - Tyto alba
Indian birds - Common barn-owl - Tyto alba
Indian birds - Common barn owl - Tyto alba
Birds of India - Common barn-owl - Tyto alba

Origin and distribution

Except for Artic and Antartic regions, these common barn owl species are spread over all the major continents. The subspecies T. a. niveicauda is endemic to Isla de la Juventud. The common barn-owl subspecies T. a. bondi is endemic to Roatán and Guanaja in the Bay Islands. The subspecies T. a. crassirostris (Boang barn owl) is endemic to Tanga Islands.

The common barn-owl subspecies T. a. detorta is endemic to the Cape Verde Islands. The subspecies T. a. gracilirostris (Canary barn owl) is endemic to Canary Islands. The owl subspecies T. a. punctatissima is endemic to the Galápagos islands. The subspecies T. a. ernesti is endemic to Corsica and Sardinia in the Mediterranean.

The common barn-owl subspecies T. a. schmitzi is endemic to Madeira and Porto Santo islands. The subspecies T. a. sumbaensis is endemic to Sumba (Indonesia). The subspecies T. a. bargei is endemic to Curaçao in the West Indies. The subspecies T. a. thomensis is endemic to São Tomé Island. The common barn-owl subspecies T. a. poensis is endemic to Bioko (Equatorial Guinea).

Ecosystem and habitat

The common barn owl ecosystem includes tropical and temperate deciduous or evergreen forests, Taiga, arid and semi-arid deserts and grasslands. They inhabit riparian woodlands, swamp forests, deciduous jungles, light secondary forests, thick scrub jungles, urban areas of cities, savanna and prairies.

Diet and feeding habits

The diet of these owl species mostly consists of small mammals (voles, shrews, rats, mice, moles, baby rabbits), birds, frogs, lizards, geckos, snakes, large insects and swarming termites. Strong and wide spreading talons are used to pick the prey animal.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season in common barn-owl is highly variable, given the wide range of habitats and ecosystems these owl species occupy. In most of the places they start nesting with the increase in temperatures and abundance of prey. These owl species are monogamous and show nesting site fidelity, returning to same site for nesting. Up to two broods may be raised in a year.

These owl species usually nest in tree holes, farm sheds, rock crevices, cracks in old lofty buildings and hay stacks. The cluster may contain up to five eggs and the chicks hatch out in about 30 days. The male common barn-owl hunts and brings food for the incubating female. The male is the main provider of feed for the chicks and the female until the chicks are four week old.

Movement and migration patterns

These common barn-owl species are mostly sedentary and are residents in their range. Post breeding dispersal of juveniles takes place. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding.

Conservation status and concerns

The global population size of these common barn-owl species is estimated to be around 5,000,000 individual birds. The overall population trend is considered to be stable. They have extremely large range and population. They do not approach the thresholds for population trend criterion and the population size criterion. Hence considered not "Vulnerable" to extinction.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these common barn-owl species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Tyto alba
Species:T. alba
Binomial name:Tyto alba
Distribution:Indian subcontinent, Middle East, Africa, Europe, Australia and Americas;
Diet and feeding habits:these owl species feeds on mall mammals, lizards, amphibians and insects;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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