RANGE: North America from British Columbia through most of the United States and Mexico
STATUS: Barn owls are considered Common throughout most of their range, and the global population is Secure. Critically Imperiled in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the Canadian Province of Ontario.
THREATS: Development of farmland, conversion to intensive row-crop farming, decline in farms that results in loss of nest sites and foraging habitat
With more than 40 subspecies of barn owls occurring around the world, a global population of almost 5 million birds, and a large North American range, you might think these owls have nothing to fear from habitat loss. In truth, the barn owl is critically imperiled in some states and portions of Canada, thanks to commercial development of farmland and a decline in the number of farms and old farm structures, where they like to nest and forage. Where barn owls do thrive, they favor open, low-lying areas. They hunt mostly rodents (they’re vole connoisseurs) but will settle for larger insects, reptiles, fish, and smaller birds. They are impressive and bold hunters, flying low to the ground and diving onto prey with talons extended. Barn owls often hunt in daylight even though they’re nocturnal creatures. Nest sites include hollows in trees, old barns, caves, and cliffs.