Barn owls (Tytonidae) are a group of owls that have a heart-shaped face, long legs and powerful talons. Barn owls are medium-sized birds with a wingspan of about 3½ feet. Most species have darker, orange-brown plumage on their head and back and paler feathers on their face and belly. The shape of a barn owl’s face helps to gather and amplify sounds from their surroundings. The sound is funneled into their ears which are asymmetrically positioned on their head. Together, these adaptations give barn owls a keen sense of hearing and the ability to pinpoint prey by ear when hunting. Barn owls also have soft plumage that helps to muffle the sound of their feathers when flying, ensuring them a silent approach when honing-in on their quarry.
Barn owls have forward-facing eyes, an adaptation that gives them binocular vision. Like all owls, they are unable to move their eyes within their eye sockets and must instead rotate their head to direct their focus on different locations.
Like most owls, barn owls feed on a variety of small animals including mice, voles, rabbits, moles and squirrels. They also feed on other animals such as birds, lizards, frogs, insects and spiders. Barn owls are nocturnal hunters and detect their prey using a combination of sight and sound. Barn owls inhabit many different habitats including deserts, woodlands and grasslands. They inhabit the United States, Central America, South America, Europe, parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia. Barn owls first appeared in the fossil record during the Eocene.