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The Barn Owl is a pale, long-winged, long-legged owl with a short squarish tail. Tail shape is a way of distinguishing the Barn Owl from true owl when seen in flight, as are the wavering motions and the open dangling feathered legs. The light face with its heart shape and the black eyes give the flying bird an odd and startling appearance, like a flat mask with oversized oblique black eyeslits, the ridge of feathers above the bill somewhat resembling a nose.
Its head and upper body typically vary between a light brown and a dark grey. The heart-shaped face is usually bright white. The toes, as the bill, vary in colour; their colour ranges from pinkish to dark pinkish-grey. The talons are black.
Contrary to popular belief, it does not hoot, instead it produces the characteristic shree scream, ear-shattering at close range. Males in courtship give a shrill twitter. It can hiss like a snake to scare away intruders, and when captured or cornered, it throws itself on its back and flails with sharp-taloned feet, making for an effective defense. Also given in such situations is a rasp and a clicking snap, produced by the bill or possibly the tongue. It is most recognizable by its “mask-like” face.
Taken at Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale, Alberta, Canada.