Number of species: 16 species
Like "typical" owls in the family Strigidae, barn owls have forward-facing eyes, excellent vision in dim light, and very sensitive ears. (Research shows that the common barn owl can locate prey by sound alone in complete darkness.) Tytonids differ from "typical" owls in having long, compressed bills, rather short tails, and rather long legs. The facial disk is heart-shaped instead of round. They lack the feather structures called ear tufts that many typical owls display. Their dark eyes are comparatively small and oval-shaped. The inner edge of the middle claw is serrated, like a comb. Barn owls use this claw to preen their feathers.
Most species in this group have a pale belly contrasting with a darker gray or brown back. The feathers show a beautiful allover speckling. Females tend to be larger, heavier, and darker in color than males.
The smallest member of this family is the Oriental bay owl, just 9 inches (23 centimeters) long. Common barn owls vary widely in size, and some members of this species are also very small. They may weigh as little as 6.6 ounces (187 grams). The longest and heaviest barn owls are female Australian masked owls at 2.8 pounds (1.3 kilograms) and 22.4 inches (57 centimeters).
Barn owls are widely distributed. The species for which the family is named, the barn owl, is the world's most widespread species of land bird. Barn owls are found on every continent phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder family except Antarctica and on many islands. No members of the family are found in Earth's coldest regions, however. No barn owls live in the Arctic or in the northernmost parts of Europe, Asia, or North America. Barn owls are also absent from the driest desert regions such as the Sahara and the Middle East.
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