Today’s bird is the common barn owl.
Since it is an owl, it is rare to see it during daylight. Although I don’t like flash lighting, I tried only using a flashlight but all my pictures were too grainy. So, I relented and learned how to use a flash so as to get decent quality pictures of this most interesting bird (I know I know, you probably will say: Hah! Serge thinks all birds are interesting, so what’s new? hhehe, OK fine, you got me there. But no matter how you look at it, keep reading and you too might just think: wow, I can’t believe this bird can do that!).
The barn owl, being a nocturnal bird, hunts at night. It has extremely sensitive ears and eyes which allow it to catch its prey in such low light that you and I would consider it complete darkness. According to some articles, this bird can fly low at night and spot the exact location of a rodent just by sound alone. That would explain the accuracy in complete darkness. However the strange thing is that this bird, unlike the great horned owl, which we will cover in the next post, does not have visible ears.
Another thing which you will notice, they don’t seem to have a neck. The face is fascinating, looking like a white disk with a little bit of a heart shape. The wikipedia article explains that it is “formed by stiff feathers which serve to amplify and locate the source of sounds when hunting“. It also mentions something I have observed: “Further adaptations in the wing feathers eliminate sound caused by flying“.
You only get to see the white shape suddenly appear out in the dark sky. You will hear absolutely nothing. That works perfectly for the owl since the prey will never hear it coming down.
According to the Audubon site, this bird eats mostly rodents, but will also catch shrews (a very small mammal which is not a rodent), small rabbits. On rare occasions it will also eat small birds, insects, and frogs.
The sound it makes has been labeled very accurately as a “raspy shriek”. When I heard it first I thought it was the great horned owl which was doing that. But one day I heard it, and saw a barn owl right where the sound came from.