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Barn Owls fly slowly over open fields at night or dusk with slow wingbeats and a looping, buoyant flight. They use their impressive hearing, aided by their satellite-dish-shaped faces, to locate mice and other rodents in the grass, often in complete darkness. Barn Owls are usually monogamous and mate for life, although there are some reports of males with more than one mate. Males attract their mates with several kinds of display flights, including a “moth flight” where he hovers in front of a female for several seconds, his feet dangling. He also displays potential nest sites by calling and flying in and out of the nest. After the pair forms, the male brings prey to the female (often more than she can consume), beginning about a month before she starts laying eggs. Barn Owls defend the area around their nests, but don’t defend their hunting sites; more than one pair may hunt on the same fields.

Barn Owls are difficult to count because they’re nocturnal and secretive, so population sizes are hard to estimate. Owing in part to this difficulty, the North American Breeding Bird Survey could not detect a significant population change between 1966 and 2014, although it appears that their numbers have slightly increased in that time. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 2 million, with 7% living in the U.S. and 2% in Mexico. They rate a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not on the 2016 State of the Birds Watch List. Barn Owls are threatened by the conversion of agricultural land to urban and suburban development, and the loss of suitable nesting sites such as large, hollow trees and old buildings. Changes to agricultural fields and grasslands can also affect Barn Owls through changes to their prey populations. Barn Owls were affected by the use of DDT-related pesticides, and they may be susceptible to poisons used against rodents, since they form a large part of the owls’ diet. Because Barn Owls hunt by flying low over fields, they are often hit by cars; planting hedgerows alongside roads can help prevent this from happening. Nest boxes (of the correct size) have helped Barn Owl populations recover in areas where natural nest sites were scarce.