Wilbur The Barn Owl Interesting Facts

This is my adopted son Wilbur the barn owl, with the heart shaped face who has my heart and lives at the Koret Animal Resource Center at the San Francisco zoo.  Read about Wilbur's adoption here.

I am using Wilbur as an example to bring you some interesting facts about barn owls in general.

Barn owls have acute hearing with their ears being asymmetrical.  On a barn owl their ears are covered by feathers with one ear being on the top right side of their head and the other being on the low left hand side.  They work like cell phone towers with sounds bouncing off of each other.  If a barn owl were blind, he would still be able to hunt for food using his keen sense of hearing.

Their eyes are tubular in shape which means that they do not have peripheral vision.  That is why they have to turn their heads up to 270 degrees to see around them.  They have no sense of smell at all and is why they have a heightened sense or hearing.  Wilbur also has depth perception problems so you will often see him stomping around which is cause by his inability to perceive depth.

This is one of Wilbur's feathers.  The zoo keeps these and other artifacts from their birds to teach children and people like me :) about these beautiful creatures.

This is Wilbur at feeding time being held by his docent trainer.  As you can see, Wilbur's outer feathers are a combination of gray, brown and white coloring.  His inside feathers and body are a pure white.  This is nature's way of protecting them from predators.  While in flight, from up above they blend in with the terrain. From predators below they look like a white cloud.  If you look closely, those little holes or specks on his body will allow for some dark spots by predators seeing the barn owl from below making it look like he is simply a cloud.  Their bones are also hollow so when they fly, they are completely silent.  Their wings do not make any noise.  This is true for all owls.  His feathers are very light and feel like satin to the touch.  They also have a layer of down feathers which keep them warm. They are oiled regularly with a special oil to keep the feathers light and shiny and to keep the owl warm.

In the wild, the barn owl dines on mainly rats and mice.  In captivity at the zoo Wilbur and his owl pals along with Frank, the harris hawk and Monty, the turkey vulture are fed a rotating diet of mice, rats, rabbit, chicks and quail.  Wilbur is eating a chick in this photo.  These are not just mice etc... from the wild, they are laboratory mice and rats etc... which are cleaned and their intestines removed before they are fed to the owls and bird life at the resource center.  Owls in particular have a high metabolism and the waste product is excreted almost immediately after they have been fed.  The owls also regurgitate the feathers and any bones from the mice and feed which then becomes the owl pellet.  The owls and birds are weighed daily to insure that they are maintaining an adequate weight and that their eating habits are akin to being healthy.  Right now, Wilbur weighs 1 1/2 pounds.  The largest owl at the center, Athena the Eurasian Eagle owl weighs 5 pounds.

This is Wilbur about to have dinner.  When an owl becomes excited either by the thought of having food as in the above photo or by hearing various noises, they are baiting which means they will flap their wings to try and fly.  If you are around the animal resource center during their feeding time, which I am, you will see all the animals flapping about.  Wilbur has a beautiful and impressive wingspan.

Owls in general do not like to be touched and also like to be alone even when in the company of their own species.  They do all have their own personalities. Wilbur for example likes to come out right before feeding time and hang out on the grass and his wooden perch while watching for his trainer to come out and get him ready for his meal.  He will sometimes get into his bath and stomp around for his adoring fans.  He is one of the owls who travels to the schools on the zoo mobile to entertain children during the school year.  Yes, he has a fan base :)  Owls in general are pretty friendly but don't try and mess with their nest.  If you do, they will dive bomb you and that goes for all of the owls species.

Barn owls in the wild make old barns, church steeples and hollow tree branches their homes.  At the zoo, Wilbur loves being in his barn.  He spends most of his time in there during the day and at night is brought inside with the other owls and birds to their own little caged tree habitat.

I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about barn owls and my Wilbur.  I am learning so much about these beautiful birds each day.  I will have more for you in the weeks to come.

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I love Wilbur! We have a couple of barred owls in our forest. I love to hear them.
Cheers from Cottage Country E. Ontario
Misty DawnS said…
What a truly gorgeous creature!!! I keep wishing some barn owls would come to our barn, but all we've got are pigeons. LOL
Jennifer, thanks for the comment and follow.
Misty, LOL pigeons can be gorgeous too :)
Phil said…
Wilbur is a wonderful advert for the cause of nature conservation. Thank you for all your information about Barn Owls and your superb pictures.
Thanks so much, Phil. Very much appreciated.
TexWisGirl said…
they are marvels of nature. i love his little heart-shaped face. so sweet of you to adopt him and share him here!
eileeninmd said…
Love Wilbur's story and wonderful photos. I love any kind of owl, they are awesome. But the Barn Owl has the prettiest face. Thanks for sharing!
Terri said…
Very interesting- thanks for sharing. He is a handsome fella!
TexWis, yes that heart shaped faced is precious. Thanks for stopping by.
Eileen, I do too. Love all owls. Thanks so much for reading and commnenting
Thank you so much, Terri
Andrea said…
I share your love of owls and have, like you, worked with them for years. Your information is very important. People need to have an appreciation for what nature gave us so they will be more inclined to support and preserve their habitats. An important point you could make in the future is that, because the Owls (and all birds except the Vultures) have no sense of smell, they can be put back in their nests if they are found on the ground. If the nest is not reachable, attaching a box or basket to the tree or in the area of the nest (high enough so ground preditors can't reach them)and putting the baby back in it ... the parents will continue to care for it. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experiences with Wilbur and I look forward to hearing more about him in the future.

Andrea @From The Sol
Pat said…
Thanks for sharing Wilbur's story and the cool facts about owls. I love his face.
Fascinating information about owls, thank you for sharing.
Pat and Lavender cottage, thank you so much for reading and commenting
Andrea, thank you for all of your info. While I don't work with the, I am there much of the time and am learning alot about these birds. You make a good point about bringing this info to the public in order to help educate and bring awareness to nature. Thanks.
Rajesh said…
Great shots of the owl and interesting information.
Anonymous said…
Wilbur is so beautiful! Thanks for sharing the pictures and information! I wish you a great sunday!
Gorgeous shots. He's very handsome.
Wilbur is soooo beautiful! Looking at his feathers is like looking at the constellations!
Clytie said…
I love that you have adopted Wilbur! What a special privilege! Barn owls are some of my favorite birds, with their sweet little heart-shaped faces. I learned a lot more about them today - thank you!

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