common barn owl (Tyto alba)

Barn owls have heart-shaped faces. This facial disk actually hides the barn owl's ears, which are quite sensitive.

One would think that an owl known as the "barn" owl would be a common resident of the agricultural midwest.

Unfortunately, these beautiful owls are now endangered in Illinois due to several factors including loss of foraging and nesting habitat. Like other cavity nesting birds, they rely on dead trees to provide nest sites.

Often, we remove dead trees in town and along roadways because they pose a safety threat.

Barn owls will substitute an old barn for a nest site, when cavities are not available.

Their call is an unmistakable and very loud hiss. Somewhere between the sound of leaking gas and a jet on takeoff lies the call of the barn owl.

Barn owls were common until the early 1960's and were often seen in towns and on farms.

Barn owls have exceptional hearing and can locate prey in near total darkness.

These barn owl chicks were left homeless when the tree containing their nest was cut down. To read the complete story of their discovery and how one was returned to the wild, click here.
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 Quick Facts about barn owls:

Barn owls eat mostly voles, but also eat other mammals and birds.


Barn owls are an endangered species in Illinois. Possible reasons include; the use of pesticides to control rodents, loss of nesting and foraging habitat, shooting and road kills.

Important Tip To Remember:

Many people confuse barred and barn owls, possibly because the two words sound alike. In Illinois, you are much more likely to see and hear a barred owl than a barn owl. Barred owls hoot and barn owls hiss.