The barn owl is a common species of owl found on every continent of the world except Antarctica. It grows from 13 to 20 inches long, and its wingspan ranges from 30 to 45 inches. It's a nocturnal hunter of small mammals and birds. Instead of hooting like most owls, barn owls emit long, harsh shrieks.
Barn owls have white, heart-shaped faces with gold or tan rims. Their heads, backs and upper wings are buff or gray, and their chests, abdomens and under-wings are white. Their eyes are fixed, so to look sideways, they must move their entire heads. Owls have keen hearing that enables them to locate prey in the dark. Usually they feed on rodents, such as rats, mice, lemmings and voles, but sometimes they hunt rabbits, shrews, bats and small birds, such as starlings, meadowlarks and blackbirds. They tear their prey apart and swallow all of it, including the skull, bones and skin. Afterwards, they disgorge indigestible parts in the form of hard pellets.
Barn owls nest anywhere they can find shelter, including old buildings, the lofts of barns, houses, church steeples, trees, cliff ledges, caves and nest boxes. They are monogamous birds that mate for life. During a nesting season they have two to three broods of eggs, which the female incubates for 30 to 33 days before they hatch. The parents are constantly busy feeding the young owlets until, after 55 to 65 days, they are ready to begin hunting on their own.