Barn Owl – Scréachóg Reilige
Irish for barn owl is Scréachóg reilige. Their lifespan is 4 years, the oldest recorded was 15 years. They are a honey colour on top and very white underneath, with a beautiful heart-shaped face and long legs. Unlike the long-eared owl and the short-eared owl, the barn owl has no ear tufts at all.
The barn owl likes to live near woodlands, ditches and farmlands. You will only see them at dusk when they are busy hunting for mice, rats, frogs or small birds. As it flies above its prey the large, heart-shaped facial disc acts like a mini satellite dish, channelling the slightest sound to the bird’s extremely sensitive ears.
They swallow their prey whole. The indigestible parts – fur, bones and teeth – are regurgitated sometime later as large, blackish pellets that accumulate at nesting and roosting sites. Often, they will stay with their partner for life. The barn owl will be familiar to many as the signature bird of RTE’s flagship Friday night programme, “The Late Late Show”.
They nest in old barns, outbuildings, church spires and in holes in old trees. The lay four to seven eggs from April to early May. Young owlets are hungry creatures and by the time they fledge some nine to twelve weeks later each owlet is capable of consuming the equivalent of a dozen mice per night. A family of barn owls are extremely effective (and free) form of rodent control.
This is undoubtedly one of Ireland’s most striking birds, but unfortunately the Barn Owl’s ghostly silhouette and its characteristic rasping shriek are becoming increasingly scarce in Ireland. Listen to the unmistakable screech of the barn owl here