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White-breasted barn owl

Tyto alba alba


In Northern Ireland the population of barn owls has declined by over 70 percent in the last 50 years. There may be fewer than 50 pairs left in Northern Ireland today.

Although no longer commonly seen, the barn owl is still a well-known bird within Ireland. It plays an important part in the history and folklore of the country as it is believed that the barn owls territorial screech was responsible for the legends of the banshee.

Barns owls nest in ruined or derelict buildings, such as rural barns and, occasionally, hollow cavities in mature trees. The barn owl is mostly white with yellow and tawny markings and has a distinctive heart-shaped face. Barn owls have low-light vision to help them find prey moving in grassland in the dead of night. They also have soft, downy feathers which muffle their movement during flight to allow them to hunt silently.

Belfast Zoo is home to two rescued barn owls, Dawn and Dusk. The pair can be seen at the back of the zoo farm, near the entrance of red squirrel nook. We actively support Bird Watch Ireland’s work with this native species.

Animal class

Bird

Conservation status

Barn owls are listed under Appendix II of CITES. The IUCN believes that, globally the birds are not in danger of extinction.

Habitat

Grasslands

Population

It is estimated that there could be less than 50 breeding pairs left in Northern Ireland.

Diet

Carnivore. Barn owls eat a diet of mice, voles, shrews and other rodents.