British wildlife recordings
Tyto alba : Barn Owl - Tytonidae
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Barn Owl, Tyto alba
This is a recording of the call of the barn owl. A ghostly white silhouette and nocturnal habits instantly identify this most enigmatic of British birds. The old name, 'screech owl', comes from the unearthly piercing calls produced especially around courtship time. The noisy nature of these birds is not just confined to the adults - the hissing made by hungry chicks on arrival of an adult with food is audible at quite a distance from the nest. Barn owls feed mostly on small mammals such as voles or mice that are located using a combination of hearing and sight. Hunting is aided by specially dampened plumage, which enables them to fly and pounce in virtual silence. The barn owl is the archetypal farm bird and, in common with many birds that prefer a rural lifestyle, has declined dramatically over the last century as a result of agricultural intensification and the increased use of pesticides. Current population estimates are believed to have stabilised at around 4,000 pairs and the bird is thought to have pulled back from the brink of extinction. The greatest cause of mortality in today's barn owls is from being struck by vehicles as the birds hunt for food along the hedgerows and boundaries that run adjacent to our roads.