Species Profile

Barn Owl Western population

Scientific Name: Tyto alba
Taxonomy Group: Birds
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2010
Last COSEWIC Designation: Threatened
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Barn Owl

Barn Owl Photo 1



The Barn Owl is a medium sized, buffy-coloured owl with a distinctive heart-shaped facial disk. The head is rather large and lacks ear tufts. The upper parts are mainly buffy; the under parts are tawny to white, with fine black spots or speckles. (Updated 2006/01/25)


Distribution and Population

In the Western Hemisphere, the Barn Owl is found from extreme southern Canada to southern South America and the West Indies. In Canada, the Barn Owl is at the northern limit of its range, and breeds only locally in southern British Columbia, southern Ontario, and possibly in southern Quebec. Spring transients or summer visitors are occasionally seen in the southern Prairie provinces. The main Canadian population is in British Columbia, where the owl has been reported as far north as Shuswap Lake, and as far east as Hope. The Barn Owl was first recorded in the province in 1909. Numbers increased from the 1940s to the 1980s as a result of mild winters and expansion of suitable agricultural habitat. A population estimate in 1987 indicated there were 4 to 6 pairs of Barn Owls in Ontario. Numbers are predicted to decline because of agricultural intensification and urban development. (Updated 2006/01/25)



Barn Owls prefer low-elevation, open country, where their small rodent prey are more abundant. In Canada, they are often associated with agricultural lands, especially pasture. Nests are located in buildings, hollow trees, and cavities in cliffs. In Canada, most nests are found on man-made structures, especially those which are abandoned or unused. (Updated 2006/01/25)



Most Barn Owls begin breeding in their second year, although it is possible for them to breed towards the end of their first year. These owls are usually solitary nesters, but when food production or site availability are favorable, they will form loose colonies. They don't make a nest, but will use a site year after year, such that it accumulates debris. The size of the clutch (usually 5-8 white eggs), the number of broods in a year, and other reproductive factors are linked to the availability of food, mainly small mammals. Only the female incubates the eggs, but both parents feed the young. Barn Owls will remain in B.C. throughout the year, if the food supply is adequate. (Updated 2006/01/25)



The main factor limiting the Barn Owl is the loss of habitat and of prey species, mainly to urbanization. Barn Owls are also susceptible to cold, and severe winters can reduce the population size. Pesticides and chemicals in the environment can cause reproductive problems and mortalities; the use of chemicals to kill rodents has led to the poisoning of many Barn Owls. (Updated 2006/01/25)



Federal Protection

The Barn Owl, Western population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Barn Owl Western population is protected by the British Columbia Wildlife Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, or collect adults and eggs, or to destroy active nesting sites.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

5 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Barn Owl, Western population (2011)

    Western Canada supports a small fraction of the global population of this charismatic nocturnal raptor that preys on small rodents. Owing to its intolerance of cold climates and deep snow cover, populations in Canada are restricted to parts of southern British Columbia and southwestern Ontario. The Western population in British Columbia is small and threatened by ongoing loss and degradation of grassland and old field habitat to intensive agriculture and urbanization and by the conversion of old wooden barns and other rural buildings to more modern structures. This owl is also exposed to increasing levels of road-kill mortality owing to expansion of the road network and increases in traffic volume.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 - 2011 (2011)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings during the past year assessing the status or reviewing the classification of a total of 92 wildlife species.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – December 2011 (2011)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by February 8, 2012 for species undergoing normal consultations and by November 8, 2012 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017