The Barn Owl or the “screeching owl” is widespread across Scotland and the alarming nature of their piercing calls is hard to miss…
1. A barn owl’s hearing is incredibly powerful. Their heart-shaped face funnels sound towards their lopsided ears, which are different shapes and heights, to pinpoint even the faintest sounds.
2. It is estimated that there are around 4000-6000 breeding pairs in the UK.
3. Barn owls don’t stereotypically “twit twoo” – instead they have a distinct and shrill screech call, hence the nickname ‘screech owl’. If you hear a soft hoot, it is most likely a tawny owl.
4. There are 28 subspecies of barn owl. It is actually found on every continent except Antarctica.
5. Numbers are declining due to chemical use on their natural hunting habitat, farmlands and grasslands.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: They are very widespread across Scotland all year round, but you can catch a glimpse up close in Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Largiebaan or Bemersyde Moss.
You can read Jim Crumley’s Scottish wildlife columns online here, and each month in The Scots Magazine.