New York Natural Heritage Program
Barn Owl
Tyto alba (Scopoli, 1769)

Habitat [-]
Barn Owls are often found in open and partly open country including grasslands, marshes, and agricultural areas. They are often around human habitation. Barn Owls are cavity-nesting birds that use natural as well as human-created cavities. Preferred man-made structures include large platforms within barns and silos, tunnels dug into silage in roofed or topless silos, and barn cupola shelves. They have also used feed bins, church steeples and belfries, platforms within commercial and industrial buildings, attics of abandoned or occupied houses, ledges within chimneys, and platforms beneath bridges (NatureServe 2004). Foraging habitats are typically open areas, such as grassy fields (natural and agricultural), wet meadows, and fresh and salt water marshes. Barn Owls typically use dense conifers as roost sites during the winter, but have used nest boxes as well (NatureServe 2004).

Associated Ecological Communities [-]
  • Brackish meadow
    A moist, moderately well-drained brackish (salinity 0.5-18 ppt) perennial grassland with occasional isolated shrubs that is typically situated in a belt at the upper edge of salt marshes bordering sandy uplands, but may occupy large portions of interdunal basins. The community usually develops in areas with a unique combination of soils and hydrology, on deep deposits of periodically windblown or overwashed gleyed sands that are usually flooded only during spring tides and during major coastal storms, approximately two to three times per year.
  • Brackish tidal marsh
    A marsh community that occurs where water salinity ranges from 0.5 to 18.0 ppt, and water is less than 2 m (6 ft) deep at high tide. The vegetation in a brackish tidal marsh is dense and dominated by tall grass-like plants.
  • Cropland/field crops
    An agricultural field planted in field crops such as alfalfa, wheat, timothy, and oats. This community includes hayfields that are rotated to pasture.
  • Freshwater tidal marsh
    A marsh community that occurs in shallow bays, shoals, and at the mouth of tributaries of large tidal river systems, where the water is usually fresh (salinity less than 0.5 ppt), and less than 2 m (6 ft) deep at high tide. Typically there are two zones in a freshwater tidal marsh: a low-elevation area dominated by short, broadleaf emergents bordering mudflats or open water, and a slightly higher-elevation area dominated by tall grass-like plants.
  • High salt marsh
    A coastal marsh community that occurs in sheltered areas of the seacoast, in a zone extending from mean high tide up to the limit of spring tides. It is periodically flooded by spring tides and flood tides. High salt marshes typically consist of a mosaic of patches that are mostly dominated by a single graminoid species.
  • Low salt marsh
    A coastal marsh community that occurs in sheltered areas of the seacoast, in a zone extending from mean high tide down to mean sea level or to about 2 m (6 ft) below mean high tide. It is regularly flooded by semidiurnal tides. The mean tidal range of low salt marshes on Long Island is about 80 cm, and they often form in basins with a depth of 1.6 m or greater.
  • Maritime grassland
    A grassland community that occurs on rolling outwash plains of the glaciated portion of the Atlantic coastal plain, near the ocean and within the influence of offshore winds and salt spray.
  • Salt panne
    A shallow depression in a salt marsh where the marsh is poorly drained. Pannes occur in both low and high salt marshes. Pannes in low salt marshes usually lack vegetation, and the substrate is a soft, silty mud. Pannes in a high salt marsh are irregularly flooded by spring tides or flood tides, but the water does not drain into tidal creeks. After a panne has been flooded the standing water evaporates and the salinity of the soil water is raised well above the salinity of sea-water.
  • Successional old field
    A meadow dominated by forbs and grasses that occurs on sites that have been cleared and plowed (for farming or development), and then abandoned or only occasionally mowed.