Barn Owls


Photo courtesy of acryptozoo on Flickr

A farmer walks into his barn late one fall evening. He hears a loud raspy, hissing “SSS-SKEECH!!!” The farmer jumps with fright and looks up into the rafters. A thin, white object files quickly and silently above his head. He runs out the barn and into the house, screaming “There’s a ghost, there’s a ghost in the barn!” The farmer and his wife decide to wait until morning to investigate. Lying impatiently in bed, he wonders what they would find.

As the sun rises, the farmer and his wife head out to the barn. Slowly, they open the doors and walk inside. Scurrying sounds came from the rafters. Much to their surprise, when they look up there sits a beautiful white owl. The farmer’s wife laughs and says, “I think we found your ghost!”


Photo courtesy of Nathan Rupert on Flickr

Stories like this have been told throughout history. The barn owl is a beautiful white-bellied bird with a rusty upper coat. With specialized feathers, they can fly without making a sound – something that could make anyone believe in ghosts.

The barn owl’s heart-shaped face doesn’t just make it easy to identify – it also aids the bird in hearing! Acting like a funnel, the face draws sound into the owl’s ears, giving it almost 100% accuracy when hunting in complete darkness. Their hearing is so good they can hear a mouse walking on packed earth up to 30 yards away!

Barn owls live in open country and will nest in tree hollows. Nowadays, they are more common in barns or old buildings. They benefit farmers, because their diet tends to be mostly the rodents that tend to eat the farmers’ crops. The owls will even keep down the insect and snake populations if mice can’t be found.

Barn owls are rare in Ohio and are listed as a threatened species in our state. Tis’ the season to think about the ghosts of the past, the present and the future, so the ghostly sightings of a barn owl could benefit us all!

Julie Robinson, Hub Naturalist, Sharon Woods