This owl is in a class of its own, literally! Or to be more precise, the Barn Owl is in a family of its own. Not only does the Barn Owl look different than other owls, due to its heart-shaped face, short tail, and small eyes, it is actually classified in a different group than all other North American owls. When scientists classify plant and animal species, they use a system called taxonomy, grouping species with similar characteristics into the same family. Most of the North American owl species are grouped together in a family called Strigidae, a.k.a. the “typical owls”. Barn Owls, however, belong to a family called Tytonidae, which comes from the Greek word tuto, which means, “night owl”. While many people think that all owls are nocturnal, many are actually diurnal or crepuscular, meaning that they may be active at any time of day, though most likely the hours around dawn and dusk. Barn Owls, on the other hand, are strictly nocturnal, earning them the nicknames Night Owl, Ghost Owl, and even Death Owl. But don’t be fooled. The only death this large, ghostly white owl will be causing is to the rodents that scamper about barns and other old buildings. You can thank a Barn Owl for keeping your barn rodent free!
Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.