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Barn owl facts

There are a number of owls that are native to the British Isles. The species include Little Owls, Tawny Owls, Barn Owls, Long-eared Owls, Short-eared Owls and Snowy Owls.

European Eagle Owls were once native however they are no longer classed as a British bird due to a period of absence following their persecution.

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Barn Owls are certainly one of the most striking and beautiful birds in the world and are found on all continents except Antarctica. In the UK, Barn Owls usually nest in disused wooden barns however they may also use church towers, hollow tree's and cliff ledges.

Barn Owls are dedicated parents and can successfully rear up to 6 youngsters at a time.

Their diet consists of small rodents and a family of Barn Owls may catch up to 5,000 voles during the summer months. They have a special design of feathers to enable silent flight when hunting. Their eyesight is excellent and they are one of the few owls that are able to see in complete darkness.

These owls also have excellent hearing and are capable of sensing the movement of a mouse at a distance of 30 feet. Their ears are asymmetric (one ear is higher and further back than the other) to allow the sound of prey to be located with pinpoint accuracy.

Owls and weddings

Edward Lear's poem "The Owl and the Pussycat", first published in 1871, is a popular reading at many wedding services. The full version is shown below with Edward Lear's original illustations.

The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.