Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Barn owls are found on every continent except for Antarctica. Their hearing is so exceptional, that they can hunt prey in total darkness! Their unique, heart-shaped face helps direct sound to their ears.
Barn owls have adapted well to human development and like to nest in man-made structures such as houses, steeples and, of course, barns. Considered one of the best natural “pest” controllers, an individual barn owl can eat hundreds of mice and other small rodents in a year. During breeding season, the female barn owl will stay with the young while the male hunts and returns with food. Baby barn owls can eat their own body weight in food every night. A nest might have up to seven chicks, so that’s a lot of food to catch every night!
Our two resident barn owls, Tyto and Alba, live in the exhibit hall but also often visit classes, birthday parties and schools.
Alba was found in Danville in a house under construction. Because she could not fly, she was brought to our wildlife hospital in 1999 for examination. It was discovered that her shoulder was unstable and would dislocate while flying. Since this condition cannot be repaired and she would not be able to successfully hunt, she cannot be released.
A young Tyto was found in Davis with a fractured left wing. Although the wing healed, he cannot fly perfectly and would not be able to successfully hunt in the wild. He has lived at the museum since 2004.
You can help barn owls by providing nest boxes (http://ca.audubon.org/barn-owl-boxes) and not poisoning the rodents they rely on for food.