Serena is a female Barn Owl who came to us in May of 2003 as a fledgling.
She was found in a barn soaking wet, suffering from hypothermia. Her right
leg was broken, and although it healed, she became severely imprinted on
humans and does not know how to survive in the wild. Serena was a part of
our program until the summer of 2004 when she was transferred to the Point
Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington, to be a part of their raptor program.
Barn Owls are light to medium brown birds with white chests and legs and
white heart-shaped facial disk. There tends to be a small amount of sexual
dimorphism between the males and females with the females having slightly
darker plumage and more spotting on their chests and underneath their wings.
They have the best hearing of all the owl species due to the fact that their
facial disk acts much like a satellite dish for bringing in sound to the
ears as well as the vast degree that their ears are offset. Their hearing is
so accurate that if you were to place a barn owl in a pitch black room and
let a mouse go, the barn owl would be able to pinpoint the mouse and catch
it without any mistakes!
Barn owls are found throughout North America, and adapt well to living
around humans. They tend to be found in warmer, drier climates; locally they
thrive well in summer but are at the edge of their winter range. The thinner
feathering and long, unfeathered toes and legs of the barn owl leave it very
susceptible to cold temperatures and it often has difficulty with Pullman
winters. Many perish when it stays cold for long periods of time.
The majority of a barn owl diet consists of small rodents. They are quite
particular to this prey source and often will not take other food, even when
faced with starvation. Growing barn owls can eat 12-14 mice per night, and
it is not uncommon for a pair to raise 4-5 young at a time. Since the adult
barn owls also need 10-12 mice apiece each night because they are working so
hard to feed the young, they can kill in excess of 90 mice per night.
Clearly, these owls are quite valuable for keeping rodent populations in
Barn owls have the greatest number of vocalizations of all the owl species;
however, most are quiet noises made at the nest. The sounds you are most
likely to hear include the infamous barn owl screech, in addition to hissing
or bill clapping; they also twitter softly, coo, and chirp