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13

Eastern Barn Owl

(Tyto delicatula)
Alternate name(s): "Barn Owl", "Delicate Barn Owl", "Screeching Owl",
"Lesser Masked Owl", "White Owl", "Australian Barn Owl"
Aboriginal name(s): "yondja", "minar" (WA)

Size: 30-40 cm; wing span 70-90 cm (female larger than male)
Weight: 250-420 g (male), 260-470 g (female)

Similar
species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Eastern Barn Owl at Wikipedia .

Click here for classification information

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Not the photos you want? Or are you after even better quality? Have a look here .

ADULT

MALE

Full-frontal view of a male(?) Eastern Barn Owl in captivity (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)

Near-lateral view of a male(?) Eastern Barn Owl in captivity (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)

Dorsal view of a male(?) Eastern Barn Owl in captivity; note the sparsity of rufous hues (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)

FEMALE

Full-frontal view of a female Eastern Barn Owl
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2021]

Frontal view of a snoozing female Eastern Barn Owl (photo courtesy of M. Windeyer)
[Gilgandra, NSW, July 2011]

Frontal view of a female Eastern Barn Owl looking sideways
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2021]

Close-up near-frontal portrait of a female Eastern Barn Owl (photo courtesy of V. Collins)
[Narrabri, NSW, June 2021]

Near-frontal view of a female Eastern Barn Owl
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2021]

Near-frontal view of a female Eastern Barn Owl looking downwards
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2021]

Near-frontal view of a female Eastern Barn Owl looking sideways (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Anstead, QLD, April 2018]

Near-lateral view of a female Eastern Barn Owl
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2021]

Lateral view of a female Eastern Barn Owl looking towards the observer
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2021]

Near-dorsal view of a female Eastern Barn Owl looking at the photographer (photo courtesy of V. Collins)
[Narrabri, NSW, June 2021]

Near-dorsal view of a female Eastern Barn Owl looking at the photographer (photo courtesy of M. Windeyer)
[Gilgandra, NSW, September 2017]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Close-up frontal view of 3 fledgling Eastern Barn Owls at the entrance to their nest hollow
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

Close-up near-frontal view of a fledgling Eastern Barn Owl looking up
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

Near-frontal view of a fledgling Eastern Barn Owl on the ground
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

Near-lateral view of a fledgling Eastern Barn Owl
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

Near-lateral view of a fledgling Eastern Barn Owl, different stance
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

Close-up lateral portrait of a fledgling Eastern Barn Owl
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

3 fledgling Eastern Barn Owls, one of which is issuing a begging call
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

Near-dorsal view of a fledgling Eastern Barn Owl looking backwards
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

Near-dorsal/ventral view of a fledgling Eastern Barn Owl
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

Breeding information

Breeding season: All year Eggs: 2 - 3 Incubation period: 33 days Fledging age: 42 - 63 days

Eastern Barn Owls can breed any time of the year. In the tropical North they will breed during the dry season, while in the interior of the continent they will breed after significant rainfall events. Usually they have 2 broods per season, but in the case of a rodent plague there may be more. Egg-laying happens over a considerable period of time, which can lead to age differences of dependent young of up to several weeks.

Nest building: ? Incubation: Female Dependent care: Male & female

The male will feed the female during egg incubation. The female will only start to leave the nest when the youngest chicks are about 6 weeks old. From then on the female helps with feeding the brood. After fledging, the female is the sole provider and will teach the offspring hunting skills.

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Tree hollow Material: Scattered regurgitated food pellets as lining Height above ground: 5? - 15? m

While nest entrances are usually well off the ground, the nest inside its hollow may be at ground level, because Eastern Barn Owls use very deep hollows. Where no trees are available, Eastern Barn Owls will also nest in rock crevices.

Overview of the location of an Eastern Barn Owl nesting tree right next to a chicken coop; click to see a large version, in which three fledglings can be seen ca. 3/4 of the way up to the top
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 43 x 32 mm Colour: Chalky white Shape: Elliptical

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Dispersive Elementary unit: Solitary/pair

Female Eastern Barn Owl roosting very conveniently in a corner of a shed at a grain handling facility at the time of a mouse plague (photo courtesy of V. Collins)
[Narrabri, NSW, June 2021]

Female Eastern Barn Owl emerging from its roost covered in cobwebs (photo courtesy of V. Collins)
[Narrabri, NSW, June 2021]

3 fledgling Eastern Barn Owls sitting outside their nest; an Australian Magpie swooped on them around sunset...
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

... forcing one of the 3 fledgling Eastern Barn Owls to withdraw into the opening of the nest hollow again
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

Food competition can lead to fights between fledgling Eastern Barn Owls
[Near Narrabri, NSW, July 2021]

Food, Diet

Like other owls, Eastern Barn Owls are carnivores. They prey mostly on small mammals, in particular mice.

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

barnowl_20210402.m4a (NW NSW) Contact call © MD
barnowl_20201208_2.m4a (NW NSW) Contact call © MD
barnowl_20201208.m4a (NW NSW) Contact call © MD
barnowl_20191203.m4a (NW NSW) Contact calls © MD
barnowl_20210305_2.m4a (NW NSW) Contact calls (pair Q&A; in-flight) © MD
barnowl_20210402_2.m4a (NW NSW) Arrival © MD
barnowl_20210305.m4a (NW NSW) Contact calls (in-flight; + Tawny Frogmouth) © MD
barnowl_20191203_2.m4a (NW NSW) Contact calls (+ Brush-tailed Possum + Australian Owlet-nightjar) © MD
barnowl_20191203_3.m4a (NW NSW) Begging calls (juvenile) © MD
barnowl_vc_20210706.m4a (NW NSW) Begging calls (fledglings) © VC
barnowl_20210707.m4a (NW NSW) Begging calls (3 fledglings) © MD
barnowl_20210707_2.mp3 (NW NSW) Begging calls (3 fledglings, long sequence) © MD

The following recording documents a sequence of events. First 3 fledgling Eastern Barn Owls start begging for food around sunset. Then an Australian Magpie comes and swoops on them, which makes the fledglings fall silent - and one of them retreat back into the nest hollow - until the attacker leaves again. All the time one can hear chickens settling in on their roosts and other sounds of a working farm, such vehicles (and photographers).

barnowl_20210707_3.mp3 (NW NSW) Begging calls (3 fledglings) + Australian Magpie + background © MD

More Eastern Barn Owl sound recordings are available at xeno-canto.org .

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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