Barn owl


Latin name: Tyto alba

Length: 33 - 39cm Wingspan: 85 – 93cm

Where: Often on the wooded fringes of long grassland

When: Dawn and dusk

Dawn and dusk are the best times to catch sight of this most enigmatic of birds. You may see a flash of white in your headlights as you drive home along a country lane, or watch a pale shape slide silently across the fields as you take your dog for an early morning walk. They are hunting for small mammals hiding in the long grass. The beautiful heart-shaped face is there for a purpose - it helps direct the slightest sounds into their ears, ensuring that they can pinpoint the tiniest rustle of a vole or mouse creeping through the undergrowth. Especially soft feathers on their wings muffle the sound of their own flight so that unsuspecting prey are unaware of their approach.

However, they have a piercing shriek when communicating with each other, which you’ll sometimes hear from your bed in the depths of the night. They nest, as their name suggests, in barns and other outbuildings, church towers, and even hollow trees. The conversion and demolition of many of these old farm buildings is one reason they are much scarcer than in the past. Special nest boxes are now put up in the Park to encourage barn owls to begin breeding again.

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Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods