The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Barn Owl

Afrikaans name: Nonnetjie-uil

Barn Owl in flight

Barn Owl in flight

Photo © Adobe Stock

Tyto alba

The Barn Owl is such a well-known species of bird that it has been the subject of nursery rhymes, art works, on postage stamps and much more. Its common name highlights how comfortable these owls are around humans and their settlements.

The Barn Owl has a length of around 30 cm and a wingspan of around 90 cm. They weigh 300 to 400 grams. They have dark brown eyes, a whitish bill and pinkish feet. Overall, they are quite pale in appearance. The face is white and their underparts whitish with darker flecks. They are grey brown on their upperparts. Out of the other owls found in South Africa they can only be confused with their close relative the Grass Owl.

They have a distinctive screeching call which is not exactly the nicest bird call that you will ever hear. The call can often be heard around towns, but it is not easy to find the owl unless you know where their roosting spot is. They choose cavities of different sorts for their roosts, and these could occur in an old building, rock crevice, well or mine shaft.

They breed during spring and summer with the exact months varying depending which region they are in. The female can lay up to 13 eggs but 5 is the normal clutch size. The larger clutch sizes occur when there are outbursts of rodents, and the Barn Owl helps to control these plagues.

References and further reading

Wildlife of Southern Africa - Author: Martin Withers and David Hosking - Published: 2011 - Page: 114

Wildlife of the Cape Peninsula - Author: Duncan Butchart - Published: 2001 - Page: 51

World Birds - Author: Brian P. Martin - Published: 1987 - Page: 95

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Published: 1993 - Page: 234

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 4th Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Published: 2011 - Page: 244

Southern African Bird Names Explained - Author: Charles Clinning - Published: 1989 - Page: 148

Southern African Wildlife - Author: Readers Digest - Published: 1989 - Page: 158

The Birds of South Africa - Author: Hazel Stokes - Published: 1979 - Page: 25

The Birds of South Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Dr. Austin Roberts - Published: 1949 - Page: 146

The Owls of Southern Africa - Author: Alan Kemp and Simon Calburn - Published: 1987 - Page: 76

Wild About Johannesburg - Author: Duncan Butchart - Published: 1995 - Page: 46

Roberts Birds of South Africa - 4th Edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Published: 1981 - Page: 255

Roberts Birds of Southern Africa - 5th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Published: 1985 - Page: 342

Roberts Birds of Southern Africa - 6th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Published: 1993 - Page: 338

Sasol Birds of Prey of Africa and its Islands - Author: Alan and Meg Kemp - Published: 1998 - Page: 282

Roberts Birds of South Africa - 3rd Edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Published: 1975 - Page: 247

Questions and Answers - Birds of Southern Africa - Author: Deirdre Richards - Published: 1990 - Page: 24

Roberts Birds of South Africa - 2nd edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Published: 1957 - Page: 191

Newmans Birds of Southern Africa - 7th Edition - Author: Ken Newman - Published: 2000 - Page: 216

Newmans Garden Birds - Author: Ken Newman - Published: 1991 - Page: 42

Newmans Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Ken Newman - Published: 1984 - Page: 216

Meeting with Birds - Author: Tom Spence - Published: 1986 - Page: 56

Nature in the Balance - Author: Rob Marsh - Published: 1991 - Page: 31

go! - Issue 169 - Author: - Published: 2020 - Page: 116

Ian Sinclairs Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair - Published: 1988 - Page: 164

Gardening with Birds - Author: Tom Spence - Published: 1988 - Page: 57

Geoff Lockwoods Garden Birds of Southern Africa - Author: Geoff Lockwood - Published: 0 - Page: 25

Bird Atlas of Natal - Author: Digby Cyrus and Nigel Robson - Published: 1980 - Page: 145

Birds of Prey - A Kinship - Author: H. Von Michaelis - Published: 1987 - Page: 82

Birds of Prey of Southern Africa - Author: Peter Steyn - Published: 1985 - Page: 240

Birds of Southern Africa - Kruger National Park - Author: Kenneth Newman - Published: 1985 - Page: 104

Birds of the Natal Drakensberg Park - Author: Robin Little and William Bainbridge - Published: 1992 - Page: 46

Birds of the South Western Cape - Author: Joy Frandsen - Published: 0 - Page: 122

Birds of the Transkei - Author: C.D. Quickelberge - Published: 1989 - Page: 68

Birds of the Transvaal - Author: Tarboton, Kemp and Kemp - Published: 1987 - Page: 129

Collins Illustrated Checklist - Birds of Southern Africa - 1st edition - Author: Ber van Perlo - Published: 1999 - Page: 42

Field Guide to the Birds of Kruger National Park - Author: Ian Sinclair and Ian Whyte - Published: 1991 - Page: 110

Garden Birds in South Africa - Author: Duncan Butchart - Published: 2017 - Page: 69

Animals of the Kruger National Park - Author: G. de Graaff - Published: 1987 - Page: 85

African Birds of Prey - Author: Leslie Brown - Published: 1970 - Page: 150

A First Guide to South African Birds - 7th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Published: 1975 - Page: 119

A First Guide to South African Birds - 6th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Published: 1959 - Page: 119

A Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: O.P.M. Prozesky - Published: 1983 - Page: 157

A Delight of Owls - Author: Peter Steyn - Published: 1984 - Page: 1

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List of South African Birds

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