Eastern Barn Owl - Reptile Encounters

Eastern Barn Owl

Scientific name:

Tyto delicatula

Other names:

Many, including White Owl, Ghost Owl, Church Owl, Rat Owl and Delicate Owl


Least concern

Eastern Barn Owls have white, tan and dark brown feathers on their body and wings, with a heart shaped face and hooked beak. The underside is white to help mimic the moon in the night sky from prey below them, and tan and brown on the top to help camouflage with the ground and disguise them from above. They have 3 sharp talons on each foot, to help them pick up prey. Big black eyes sit fixed in their skull to help them see in the dark, being a nocturnal raptor, and therefore have a flexible neck with the ability to turn 270 degrees to look in different directions.

Eastern Barn owls are carnivorous, feeding on rodents and other small mammals as well as birds, frogs and lizards. They have a specialised hooked beak which works with their talons to tear their prey apart.

Eastern Barn Owls have adapted to living in pretty much every habitat, except for the desert and polar regions. They do prefer the lightly wooded forests as well as open fields, and are at home in suburban and urban areas as well.

Barn owls are found on all continents except Antarctica. In Australia, they can be found across almost the entire continent.

In Australia, Barn Owls are mainly encountered during the night scanning their territory for food. Eastern Barn owls are expert birds of prey with their night vision and excellent hearing. They can pin-point the location of their prey in dense fog or grass just by using their asymmetrical ears – and they can hear a mouse’s heart beating from up to 10m away! Their left ear is positioned higher than the right, and this helps them determine where the food is by which ear the sound hits first. The heart shaped face also helps to determine where the sound is coming from by channeling the sound to the ears whilst flying over terrain. They position their heads parallel to the ground and scan for prey, once a sound is picked up they will turn their head towards it and swoop down and use their talons to pick up their prey. As they fly their wings beat silently due to their flight feathers being hairy on the ends and the rest of the body feathers being soft down, which allows for no rustling in order to keep their own location hidden from fast footed prey. Once the prey is caught they then take their prey back up to a safe roosting position in a large tree hollow or cave to eat in peace.

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