The Common Barn Owl: 2018 Bird of the Year in Spain

May 17, 2020
The common barn owl is a nocturnal bird of prey that's considered an indication of the health of rural areas and the biodiversity of rural regions.

According to a survey by the Spanish Orthology Society, the common barn owl was bird of the year in Spain in 2018. With this in mind, it’s a good time to talk about the importance of one of the most unnoticed birds of prey that lives among us.

The characteristics and behavior of the common barn owl

This species–Tyto Alba–is the only member of the Tytonidae family in all of Europe and the United States. It’s a medium-sized nocturnal bird of prey with natural elegance. The feathers of this bird provide the perfect contrast, with golden and brown tones and nuclear white on its chest and face. What’s more, its face has the characteristic heart shape of owls, along with intense black eyes.

Barn owls emit multiple vocalizationsHowever, most stand out as chirps and metallic and raspy hissing sounds.

This species lives in most areas of the planet. There are 3 European subspecies, 6 African subspecies, 5 Asian subspecies, 4 Oceanic subspecies, and 11 American subspecies.

Their variety makes the common barn owl one of the birds of prey with the widest distribution. You can find them all over the 5 continents, except for polar and desert regions.

As nocturnal birds of prey, these observant birds possess very specialized hunting techniques. Thanks to their techniques, along with their patience and ability to fly in total silence, they barely ever miss their mark. In fact, they’re one of the most commonly used birds in falconry.

This bird’s feathers provide the perfect contrast, with golden and brown tones and nuclear white on its chest and face. What’s more, its face possesses the characteristic heart shape of owls, along with intense black eyes.

Why did the common barn own deserve to be Spain’s bird of the year?

The common owl has a close relationship to rural settings, as it has used our farming constructions to find refuge for centuries. Therefore, experts consider this bird to be an indication of the health of rural areas and the biodiversity of rural settings.

However, the news regarding the common barn own is not all good. According to the same Spanish Orthology Society, the number of barn owls in the country dropped by 13% since 2005. Therefore, the barn owl is a protected animal, meaning it’s illegal to hunt, capture, or bother them. In the United States, the barn owl is considered endangered in 7 midwestern states.

Their main threat is the change that’s occurring in the agricultural industry. Large monoculture operations full of pesticides are replacing traditional agricultural operations. This shift reduces the biodiversity in an area, especially when it comes to the barn owl’s prey.

This is closely related to the loss of rural populations and the exodus to cities… which also means that the barn owl loses many of its nesting areas.

So, what can city dwellers do to maintain rural ecosystems? The best way is to support small operations by consuming locally grown and sustainable agricultural products. This will help prevent feeding into giant operations that pollute and destroy rural ecosystems, threatening their existence.

Their main threat is the change that’s occurring in the agricultural industry. Large monoculture operations full of pesticides are replacing traditional agricultural operations. This shift reduces the biodiversity in an area, especially when it comes to the barn owl’s prey.

What are the benefits of the common barn owl?

According to several studies, the common barn owl is vital to the regulation of agrarian ecosystems. It’s responsible for keeping mole plagues under control as well as other aerial species of prey, like buzzards.

What’s more, it’s worth pointing out that, taking into account the great losses the mole plagues have caused in the last decade, the continued habitation of this predator in our fields is fundamental. Therefore, protecting the barn owl is of utmost importance.

At the same time, the barn owl has inspired our collective imagination. It’s been the protagonist of multiple legends and stories in the popular culture of many cultures around the world.

Wisdom, death, and night are just some of the meanings that people associate with this bird that has represented diverse cultures, including ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures. Conserving this animal is vital to our heritage as well as the survival or rural areas.