Skip to main content

Barn owls are magnificent creatures found all over the world. However, there are distinct differences between species, such as the European Barn Owl and the Asian Barn Owl. In this article, we will take a closer look at the key characteristics, behaviors, and habitats of each species.

Key Takeaways:

  • European and Asian Barn Owls are two distinct species of barn owl.
  • They differ in physical appearance, habitat, behavior, and diet.
  • Understanding these differences is essential to appreciate the unique qualities of each species.

Barn Owl Species and Characteristics

Barn owls are a fascinating species of nocturnal birds of prey that are found throughout the world. There are several types of barn owl species, including the European Barn Owl and the Asian Barn Owl. These two species differ in their physical appearance, size, coloration, and other characteristics.

The European Barn Owl, also known as the Common Barn Owl, is found in Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia. It has a heart-shaped facial disc that is white with dark borders, and its plumage is a mixture of pale yellows, browns, and grays. It has long wings and a short tail, and it measures around 33-39 cm in length.

The Asian Barn Owl, also known as the Oriental Bay Owl, is found in Southeast Asia and parts of China. It has a darker facial disc that is bordered by a white or light brown rim, and its plumage is a mix of brown, gray, and white. It has long wings and a relatively long tail compared to the European Barn Owl, and it measures around 32-37 cm in length.

Both species of barn owl have excellent hearing and vision, allowing them to hunt effectively in low-light conditions. They have unique feather patterns that allow them to fly silently, making them effective predators.

In summary, European and Asian Barn Owls are two distinct species with unique physical characteristics. Understanding these differences is important for identifying these birds in the wild and for conservation efforts.

Habitat and Distribution

The European and Asian Barn Owls have distinct habitat preferences and distribution patterns. While the European Barn Owl is found in a wide range of habitats from rural to urban areas, the Asian Barn Owl is predominantly found in forested areas and mountainous regions.

The European Barn Owl prefers open grasslands, wetlands, and agricultural areas as these provide an ample supply of prey. They can also be found in semi-arid regions such as deserts and scrublands. In contrast, the Asian Barn Owl primarily inhabits dense forests and wooded areas, as well as mountainous regions, where they nest in rocky cliffs.

The distribution of the European Barn Owl is widespread, spanning across Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are also found in some regions of Australia and North America, where they were introduced to control rodent populations. The Asian Barn Owl, on the other hand, is predominantly found in Southeast Asia, including India, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

The habitat preferences and distribution patterns of these barn owls are influenced by their adaptations to the environment and the availability of prey. Understanding their habitat and distribution is crucial for conservation efforts as it enables us to identify areas that require protection and preservation.

Behaviors and Vocalizations

Barn Owls exhibit distinct behaviors and vocalizations that differentiate them from other owl species. Let’s explore some of the fascinating habits of European and Asian Barn Owls.

Hunting Strategies

The European Barn Owl is a skilled hunter, using its acute hearing to locate prey in the dark. It can locate prey from up to 50 meters away and can capture prey with precision thanks to its sharp talons and keen vision. On the other hand, the Asian Barn Owl relies more on its vision to hunt, preferring to perch in a high location to swoop down and capture prey.

Nesting Habits

European and Asian Barn Owls have different nesting habits. The European Barn Owl nests in cavities, such as trees or old buildings, whereas the Asian Barn Owl tends to use abandoned nests of other birds. Both species are known to nest in small groups, but the European Barn Owl is more likely to nest alone.

Mating Rituals

Barn Owls have unique mating rituals that involve specific vocalizations and behaviors. The male will often court the female with a series of hoots and calls and will bring her food as a gift. The female will respond with her own vocalizations, and the pair will continue this ritual until they mate.


Barn Owls are known for their distinctive screeching calls. While both the European and Asian Barn Owls have similar calls, the Asian Barn Owl tends to have a higher-pitched call, while the European Barn Owl has a lower-pitched call. Barn Owls also use hissing and bill-snapping as communication and defense strategies.

Barn Owls have a fascinating array of behaviors and vocalizations that make them unique and captivating creatures. Understanding these differences between European and Asian Barn Owls can provide valuable insights into their behavior and habitat preferences.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Barn Owls are known for their exceptional hunting abilities, which are critical to their survival in the wild. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals such as rodents, voles, and rats. However, the specific prey items they consume can vary depending on their habitat and geographical location.

In Europe, Barn Owls have been known to feed on a variety of prey, including shrews, bats, and even small birds. In contrast, Asian Barn Owls mainly feed on rodents, particularly rats. This preference for rats may be due to the abundance of this particular prey in the Asian region.

Barn Owls hunt by flying low over fields and hunting their prey using their exceptional hearing. They are uniquely adapted to hunting in low-light conditions, thanks to their keen eyesight and sensitive hearing. Barn Owls are capable of detecting sounds at much lower frequencies than humans, enabling them to locate prey even in complete darkness.

Once they have caught their prey, Barn Owls will consume it whole, regurgitating any indigestible parts such as bones and fur in the form of pellets. These pellets provide an important source of information about the Barn Owl’s diet and can be collected and analyzed to gain insight into the types of prey they consume.

  • Barn Owl Feeding Habits: Barn Owls are known to consume a surprisingly large number of prey items, with one study estimating that an individual owl can consume up to 1,000 rodents per year!
  • Barn Owl Hunting Techniques: Barn Owls are efficient hunters, relying on their exceptional hearing and eyesight to locate prey. They hunt by silently gliding over their habitat and pouncing on unsuspecting prey below.
  • Barn Owl Prey Preferences: While Barn Owls primarily feed on rodents, they have been known to consume a wide variety of prey, including shrews, bats, and small birds.

The Barn Owl’s ability to adapt their diet and hunting techniques to their specific environment is critical to their long-term success and survival in the wild. By studying these fascinating birds, we can gain a better understanding of their unique adaptations and how they have evolved to thrive in a variety of habitats.


In conclusion, while the European and Asian Barn Owls share some similarities, they have distinct characteristics that differentiate them from one another. The European Barn Owl has a heart-shaped face, while the Asian Barn Owl has a more circular facial disc. Additionally, European Barn Owls tend to have a lighter coloration than their Asian counterparts.

These two species also have different habitat preferences. European Barn Owls are commonly found in open habitats such as fields and grasslands, while Asian Barn Owls tend to reside in forests and wooded areas.

In terms of behavior, European Barn Owls have been observed to hunt during the day more frequently than Asian Barn Owls. Their vocalizations also differ, with European Barn Owls producing a screeching call while Asian Barn Owls have a distinctive and melodious hooting call.

Finally, when it comes to diet and feeding habits, both species consume a variety of prey, such as rodents, insects, and small mammals. However, there are differences in the specific types of prey they consume and how they hunt.

Overall, a comparison of these two barn owl species yields interesting insights into their unique features, behaviors, and habitats. Studying these differences can help us better understand the ecological roles that these owls play in their respective environments and aid in conservation efforts to protect these fascinating birds.