Barn owls have a striking heart shaped face, comprised of stiff feathers that form a disc which helps them to trap and focus sound. Hearing is the primary sense barn owls use when hunting their prey. They have asymmetrical ears, one is higher than the other, and this allows them to listen both above and below when hunting. They are low flying and have uniquely designed feathers for silent flight, enabling them to hear exactly where their prey is located. The adaptation of silent flight also allows them to hunt undetected, increasing their chances of a successful hunt. Barn owls are solitary or found in pairs, they are general monogamous although polygyny (males mates with more than one female) has been reported to exist.
When the female lays her eggs she begins to incubate them immediately, so if you ever come across a barn owl next you will find chicks of different sizes. There can be an age difference of about 3 weeks between the oldest and youngest chick.
The global population is classified by the IUCN as Least Concern. However here in Ireland, they are a Red-listed Bird of Conservation Concern in Ireland due to a 50% decline in their population over the past 25 years.
In Ireland threats to Barn Owls include; habitat loss and nest site loss mainly due to agricultural intensification. The use of rodenticides has also had a significant impact on their population as they are poisoned when they eat rats or mice that have ingested rodenticide. Finally, due to their low-flying nature when hunting; road accidents have also played a part in their decline.