Barn Owls - Tyto alba
These pale, nearly worldwide, birds are closely associated with man through their traditional use in the Old World of barn lofts and church steeples as nesting sites. Although widely known beforehand, it was in 1769 when the Barn Owl was first officially described by Giovanni Scopoli, an Italian naturalist. The species name "alba" also refers to the colour white. Other names for the Barn Owl have included Monkey-faced Owl, Ghost Owl, Church Owl, Death Owl, Hissing Owl, Hobgoblin or Hobby Owl, Golden Owl, Silver Owl, White Owl, Night Owl, Rat Owl, Scritch Owl, Screech Owl, Straw Owl, Barnyard Owl and Delicate Owl. Common Misspellings: barnowl
The Upperparts are light grey with numerous fine dark lines and scattered pale spots on the feathers. There are buff markings on wings and on the back. The underparts are white with a few black spots, occasionally none. Feathering on the lower legs may be sparse. The heart-shaped facial disc is white with a brownish edge, with brown marks at the front of the eyes, which have a black iris. Its beak is off-white and the feet are yellowish-white to brownish. Males and females are similar in size and colour, females and juveniles are generally more densely spotted.
Female: Length 34-40cm (13½-15½") Wingspan 110cm (43") Weight 570g (20oz)Male: Length 32-38cm (12½-15") Wingspan 107cm (42") Weight 470g (15½oz)
The Barn Owl calls infrequently, the usual call being a drawn-out rasping screech <."http://www.owlpages.com/species/tyto/alba/sounds/Tyto_alba_Adult.mp3>. <http://www.owlpages.com/species/tyto/alba/sounds/Tyto_alba_Adult.mp3> The courtship call of male at nest is a shrill repetitive twittering. Adults returning to a nest may give a low, frog-like croak. When surprised in its roosting hollow or nest, it makes hissing and rasping noises and snapping sounds that are often called bill snapping, but possibly made by clicking the tongue.
Hunting & Food: Barn Owls specialise in hunting small ground mammals, and the vast majority of their food consists of small rodents. In Australia, the introduced House Mouse (Mus musculus) forms the staple diet. In America and Europe, voles (field mice) are the single most important food, followed by shrews, mice and rats. Barn Owls breed rapidly in response to mouse plagues. Other prey may include baby rabbits, bats, frogs, lizards, birds and insects. Prey are usually located by quartering up and down likely looking land - particularly open grassland. They also use low perches such as fence posts to seek quarry. Barn Owls rely greatly on their silent flight and extremely acute hearing to locate prey. The sound of the Barn Owls wings are muffled by a velvety pile on the feather surface. In addition, the leading edges of the wing feathers have a fringe or fine comb which deadens the sound of the wing beats.
The silent flight prevents the Owls victim from hearing its approach, and also aids the Owls own hearing. The ear openings are at slightly different levels on the head, and set at different angles. They are covered by a flexible ruff made up of short, densely webbed feathers which frames the face, turning it into a dish-like reflector for sound. This gives the Barn Owl very sensitive and directional hearing, with which it can locate prey even in total darkness.
Breeding: Barn Owls will breed any time during the year, depending on food supply. In a good year, a pair may breed twice. Rodent plagues cause Barn Owl numbers to increase dramatically. During courting, males may circle near the nest tree, giving short screeches and chattering calls. The majority of Barn Owls nest in tree hollows up to 20 metres high. They will also nest in old buildings, caves and well shafts. 3 to 6 eggs are laid (occasionally up to 12) at 2 day intervals. The eggs are 38 to 46mm (1½-1.8") long and 30 to 35mm (1.2-1.4") wide and will be incubated for 30 to 34 days. Chicks are covered in white down and brooded for about 2 weeks, and are fledged in 50 to 55 days. After this, they will remain in the vicinity for a week or so to learn hunting skills and then rapidly disperse from the nest area. Young birds are able to breed at about 10 months.
Mortality: Barn Owls are short-lived birds. Most die in their first year of life, with the average life expectancy being 1 to 2 years in the wild. In North America the oldest known Barn Owl in the wild lived to be 11 years, 6 months. In Holland, a wild barn owl lived to be 17 years, 10 months old. In England, a captive female barn owl was still breeding at 22 years old!
Habitat: The Barn Owl is found in virtually all habitats but much more abundantly in open woodland, heaths and moors than forested country. They usually roost by day in tree hollows but have also been found in caves, wells, out-buildings or thick foliage.
Distribution: The Barn Owl is one of the most wide-spread of all land birds. They are found on all continents (except Antarctica) and large islands and occur over the whole of Australia, including Tasmania. They occur throughout most of Britain and Europe and across many parts of Asia, Africa, and in much of North America. In South America they are found in areas of suitable grassland, as well as on oceanic islands such as the Galapagos. They were introduced to Hawaii in 1958.
The Physiology of Owls Eyes and Vision Of all an Owl's features, perhaps the most striking is its eyes. Large and forward facing, they may account for one to five percent of the Owl's body weight, depending on species. The forward facing aspect of the eyes that give an Owl its "wise" appearance, also give it a wide range of "binocular" vision (seeing an object with both eyes at the same time). This means the owl can see objects in 3 dimensions (height, width, and depth), and can judge distances in a similar way to humans. The field of view for an owl is about 110 degrees, with about 70 degrees being binocular vision. By comparison, humans have a field of view that covers 180 degrees, with 140 degrees being binocular. A woodcock has an amazing 360 degree field of view, because its eyes are on the side of its head. However, less than 10 degrees of this is binocular. An Owl's eyes are large in order to improve their efficiency, especially under low light conditions. In fact, the eyes are so well developed, that they are not eyeballs as such, but elongated tubes. They are held in place by bony structures in the skull called Sclerotic rings <http://owlpages.com/physiology/skull_sclerotic.html>. For this reason, an Owl cannot "roll" or move its eyes - that is, it can only look straight ahead! The Owl more than makes up for this by being able to turn its head around, and almost upside-down. It is able to achieve this by having a long and very flexible neck, which is not always apparent, as it is hidden by feathers and the Owl's posture. An owl's neck has 14 vertebrae, which is twice as many as humans. This allows the owl to turn its head through a range of 270 degrees - not, as some rumours state, a full circle. Cross-section of an Owl's Eye As most owls are active at night, their eyes must be very efficient at collecting and processing light. This starts with a large cornea (the transparent outer coating of the eye) and pupil (the opening at the centre of the eye). The pupil's size is controlled by the iris (the coloured membrane suspended between the cornea and lens). When the pupil is larger, more light passes through the lens and onto the large retina (light sensitive tissue on which the image is formed). The retina of an owl's eye has an abundance of light-sensitive, rod-shaped cells appropriately called "rod" cells. Although these cells are very sensitive to light and movement, they do not react well to colour. Cells that do react to colour are called "cone" cells (shaped like a cone), and an Owl's eye possesses few of these, so most Owls see in limited colour or in monochrome. Since Owls have extraordinary night vision, it is often thought that they are blind in strong light. This is not true, because their pupils have a wide range of adjustment, allowing the right amount of light to strike the retina. Some species of Owls can actually see better than humans in bright light. To protect their eyes, Owls are equipped with 3 eyelids. They have a normal upper and lower eyelid, the upper closing when the owl blinks, and the lower closing up when the Owl is asleep. The third eyelid is called a nictitating membrane
, and is a thin layer of tissue that closes diagonally across the eye, from the inside to the outside. This cleans and protects the surface of the eye. The Physiology of Owls Behaviour Most Owls are active at dusk and dawn, spending the daytime at a quiet, inconspicuous roost. They generally roost singly or in pairs, but may form flocks outside of the breeding season. (A group of Owls is called a parliament) An Owl's daily activity begins with preening, stretching, yawning and combing its head with its claws. The plumage is often ruffled up, and claws and toes are cleaned by nibbling with the beak. The Owl will then leave its roost, sometimes giving a call (especially in breeding season). Owls have a very expressive body language. Many species will bob and weave their head, as if curious about something - this is in fact to further improve their three-dimensional concept of what they are viewing. When relaxed, the plumage is loose and fluffy. If an owl becomes alarmed, it will become slim, its feathers pulled in tightly to the body, and ear-tufts, if any, will stand straight up. A pygmy Owl will cock its tail and flick it from side to side when excited or alarmed. Little owls bob their body up and down when alert. When protecting young or defending itself, an Owl may assume a "threat" or defensive posture, with feathers ruffled to increase apparent size. The head may be lowered, and wings spread out and pointing down. Some species become quite aggressive when nesting, and have been known to attack humans. Owls will bathe in shallow water, and also in rain. Calls: Owls have a very wide range of vocalisations, ranging from the hoots so often associated with Owls, to whistles, screeches, screams, purrs, snorts, chitters and hisses. Hooting is often territorial, and is also associated with courting, the male usually having the lower pitched Hoot. It should be noted that not all Owl species Hoot. Owls can also make clicking noises with their tongues, often as part of a threat display. They may also clap their wings in flight as part of a mating display. Mobbing: Because Owls are predators, they are feared by many birds. For this reason, they are often attacked or harassed by groups of smaller birds. This is not limited to one species, as once the attack begins, many different birds will join in. Interestingly, the Owl rarely responds to the harassment, and it is just as rare for the Owl to be injured in any way! The mobbing may succeed in forcing the Owl to move on to a different area. The retreating Owl is often pursued by the mob. Migration: Owls are generally resident birds. Some Northern populations of certain species may escape harsh winters by moving south.Owls in Lore and Culture Page 2 SYMBOLS OLD AND NEW I see a likeness between the old, animist forest, where one could not be sure whether a screech owl's call came from a bird or an Omah1, and the evolutionary forest, with its unclear distinctions between tree and fungus, flower and fir cone. The tree-fungus relationship is as mysterious in its origins and implications as the owl-Omah one. Both belong to a world that goes deeper than appearances, where a buried interconnectedness of phenomena renders behavior ambiguous, where one cannot walk a straight line. Wallace 1983:83 Owls have always been part of the root metaphors of how humans relate to the land. One of the earliest human drawings dating back to the early Paleolithic period was of a family of Snowy Owls (Nyctea scandiaca) painted on a cave wall in France (Armstrong 1958). Rock paintings or petroglyphs of owls have been found in other disparate locations including the Victoria River region of northern Australia (Flood 1997) and the lower Columbia River area of Washington state, USA (Keyser et al. 1998). Owls played roles in the ancient Mayan cultures of Mesoamerica. A carved bas-relief of the ancient Mayan Ruler 3 of Dos Pilas, in what is now Guatemala, following the death of Ruler 2 in 726 C.E., is shown adorned with a screech owl, apparently a symbol of ruling power or the resurrection of government. Owls also are very much a part of modern culture, in the sky as well as on the land. In the constellation Ursa Major, at a most dim magnitude of 11.20, is an irregular planetary nebula designated by astronomers as the Owl Nebula (more formally called M97 or NGC3587). In a more terrestrial venue, a query of the U.S. Geological Survey database on place names revealed 576 features in the United States in some way named "owl," such as Owlshead Canyon, Owl Mine, Owl Creek, and Owl Hollow. Records of the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names lists 88 current and 17 additional historic places in some way named "owl." Doubtless, many other countries have similar designations. Etymologically, the word "owl" goes back to the Middle English word "oule," which may derive from the Old English "ille," which is cognate with the Low German "ule," in turn going back to the German "eule." The ultimate root of the modern word "owl" was presumed by Lockwood (1993:112) to be a proto-Germanic word "uwwalo" or possibly "uwwilo." Another derivation of "owl" is the Icelandic "ugla," which is cognate with "uggligr," which gave rise to the Scandinavian "ugly," which led to the Middle English "ugly" and the Modern English word "ugly." The Icelandic "uggligr" does not mean "ugly" in modern connotations (that is, unpleasant to behold), but rather it means "fearful or dreadful." This is precisely the connotation of owl symbols and totems in many myths and legends. Thus, the very names that we use often speak of a deep history of traditional viewpoints and cultural perspectives. Further, in Hindi, owl is "ul" (similar to the German "eule" or Low German "ule") or "ulu" if referring to one of the large owls (the Hindi or Urdu term for smaller owls is "coscoot"). The ancient Roman "bubo," the ancient Greek "buas," the modern Hindi "ulu," and the modern Hebrew "o-ah" (Holmgren 1988) are obvious onomatopoeias, as is the modern Nepali "huhu." An awareness and understanding of the deep, complex perceptions of owls in the past may help support efforts to protect those species today. For example, the ancient cultural importance of owls in Europe helps modern conservationists there. The same is true in America. The blend of traditions carried to the U.S. by white immigrants and black slaves from West Africa (Ingersoll 1958) means that North American owl species have a strong cultural profile that may aid conservation measures. Ingersoll (1958) traced the bird beliefs amongst African-American slave and ex-slave communities. Such beliefs seeped into the dominant European-American culture just in the way that African rhythms were given to the world through blues and jazz music of black North America. Thus, current U.S. folklore about owls is an eclectic blend of European and African traditions, and Native American and Asian as well. This can be extended to an environmental principle for the West (meaning all areas occupied by those of European descent, and also by mixed-race societies such as South Africa, where a highly developed conservation tradition exists.). Any animal or flower with a strong cultural profile, no matter how negative that cultural perception may once have been (such as with bats, wolves, sharks, and owls) is at a major advantage, for conservation, over an animal with no cultural profile whatsoever (such some rodents and sparrows). The advantage is that they are rooted and recognized in the social consciousness. In the case of owls, the deep fears and anxieties they generated and the prophetic status they once held (and still hold) present environmentalists with a handle with which to engage the interest and sympathies of a wider audience. But the critical element in these situations is the fact that most Western cultures no longer perceive owls as omens of evil, or retain only the dimmest vestiges of these old beliefs. A good analogy would be our celebration of witches and the like at Halloween. We can enjoy the witches' Sabbath today precisely because we no longer believe in demonic power or demonic possession. It's been culturally degraded to the status of a parody. In a sense we mock our former frailties when we dress up as witches and ghouls. But we could never have done that without being detached from the intrinsic and original meaning of the event. In the 17th century, witches and Halloween were literally deadly serious. Now they're entertainment. However for some or even many Africans, Native North Americans, Asians, and South Americans, these perceptions of owls are living traditions with deep and powerful roots. For example, in Africa, owls are still genuinely believed to be evil. Heimo Mikkola's surveys of attitudes towards owls in Malawi revealed that owls were regarded as bad birds by a very high percentage (> 80 percent) of the people surveyed (Enriquez and Mikkola 1997, MIkkola 1997a,b). One of us (MC) found in West Africa that most people do not like owls and regard them as evil. The standard pigeon English name for owl in West Africa is "witchbird" (Cocker 2000). Rather than garnering support for endangered species such as the Congo Bay Owl (Phodilus prigoginei), the ancient African mythic traditions relating to owls may present a barrier to their conservation. A classic parallel case is the Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) of Madagascar where the beast, down to a last few dozen, has been ruthlessly persecuted because of its cultural profile as a witch-creature. The challenge for conservationists is to turn the barrier to an advantage by understanding the cultural moors and helping to craft conservation actions taking these into account. Conservationists should understand the role a bird like an owl may play in some societies. Conservation policies for a Red Data species, such as the Congo Bay Owl, should not be formulated without understanding local attitudes and any uses of that particular species. Conservationists too often inculcate their own positive view of the animal in question, but fail to change local cultural attitudes, that is, to replace deep fear with admiration and respect. The environmental community cannot tackle owl conservation without understanding the cultural profiles which most owl species have had foist upon them, some positive, and many negative. 1 - In their stories, the Klamath Mountain Indians of northwestern California, USA, referred to "Bigfoot", an elusive bipedal hominid supposedly inhabiting the deep forests, as Omah
This is our "She" she is a barn owl and was born in September 2004
She is taking her flight lessons ...the meaning is to getting her used to the glove,if she is that she is allowed to fly free
Hmmm nice chicken