Barn Owl
(Tyto alba)


Picture of bird
© Laure Neish
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Barn Owl is found worldwide in areas with mild winters. In Canada, it is restricted to southern British Columbia and southern Ontario. The species is currently not well monitored in Canada and is therefore considered data deficient in terms of the status of the current population relative to 1970. However, because of threats to its habitat, its small population size, and increasing levels of road-kill mortality, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada assessed the eastern population as Endangered and revised the status of the western population from Special Concern to Threatened (COSEWIC 2010i). Previously, the species was assessed as a whole as Special Concern (1984); subsequent assessments split the two sub-populations (COSEWIC 2010i). This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Endangered2010Barn Owl - Eastern population
COSEWIC (Canada)Threatened2010Barn Owl - Western population
SARA (Canada)Endangered2003Barn Owl - Eastern population
SARA (Canada)Special Concern2003Barn Owl - Western population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Imperiled2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaData DeficientData DeficientNot Applicable
Barn Owl (Eastern population)Data DeficientData DeficientBelow Acceptable Level
Barn Owl (Western population)Data DeficientData DeficientBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada500 - 5,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

Conservation and management

Barn Owl populations in Canada face a number of threats. Habitat loss through urbanization and intensification of agriculture is a major issue over much of its range, as is the loss of nest sites when old barns and other structures are modernised (Marti et al. 2005, COSEWIC 1999). Due to these changing land-use practices, Barn Owls have been found to frequent roadside habitat to hunt, leaving them susceptible to collisions but also more likely to consume rodenticide-laden prey (Hindmarch et al. 2017). Collisions with vehicles on highways is an important and increasing source of mortality (Marti et al. 2005, COSEWIC 1999). Barn Owls have the highest road mortality rates among raptors (Boves and Belthoff 2012, Borda-de-Agua et al. 2014). Females and juveniles are most likely to be killed because they may disperse over longer distances (Boves and Belthoff 2012). The risk of Barn Owls consuming rodenticide-laden prey is also of increasing concern due to the toxicity and persistence of widely-used second generation rodenticides (Newton et al. 1991, Albert et al. 2009). Finally, the species does not fare well when there is harsh winter weather or long periods of deep snow cover, which limit the birds' ability to hunt (Marti et al. 2005). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view available recovery documents, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other