Barn owl © Danny Green, 2020VISION

Barn owl ©Danny Green, 2020Vision

Barn owl

©Andy Rouse/2020VISION

Barn owl perched

©Jon Hawkins Surrey Hills Photography

Barn owl

Scientific name: Tyto alba
The beautiful barn owl is, perhaps, our most-loved owl. With its distinctive heart-shaped face, pure white feathers, and ghostly silent flight, it's easy to identify. Look out for it flying low over fields and hedgerows at dawn and dusk.

Species information


Length: 33-39cm
Wingspan: 89cm
Weight: 300g
Average lifespan: 4 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


Perhaps our most familiar owl, the barn owl will sometimes hunt in the daytime and can be seen 'quartering' over farmland and grassland looking for its next small-mammal meal. However, it is perfectly adapted to hunt with deadly precision in the dark of night: combined with their stealthy and silent flight, their heart-shaped faces direct high-frequency sounds, enabling them to find mice and voles in the vegetation.

How to identify

The barn owl has a mottled silver-grey and buff back, and a pure white underside. It has a distinctive heart-shaped, white face, and black eyes.

In our area

It is estimated there are just 200 breeding pairs of Barn Owl in Shropshire. Within their range a breeding pair require a minimum of four hectares (ten acres) of rough, tussocky grassland which is permanent and ungrazed. 

You can watch some amazing footage of barn owls using nest boxes at and find out more about them on the Shropshire Barn Owl Group website here


Widespread, but absent from the Highlands of Scotland and under threat in Northern Ireland.

Did you know?

Throughout history, barn owls have been known by many different nicknames, such as 'ghost owl', 'church owl' and 'screech owl'. But the name 'demon owl', in particular, illustrates how they were considered by some rural populations - something not so difficult to understand when you hear their piercing shrieks and hissing calls.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working closely with farmers, landowners and developers to promote wildlife-friendly practices. Across town and country, The Wildlife Trusts manage many nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.

Join today and help us conserve Barn owl habitat across Shropshire

Click here for information

David Tipling/2020Vision