Short-eared Owls have yellow eyes and more streaked underparts than Barn Owls; they are more often active during the day when Barn Owls are roosting. Snowy Owls are larger and whiter than Barn Owls. Snowy Owls are active during the day and in most parts of North America are only seen during winter. (A very pale owl seen in a car’s headlights is much more likely a Barn Owl than a Snowy Owl.) Burrowing Owls in the southern and western United States are diurnal; they’re also smaller and darker than Barn Owls, with yellow eyes, and are almost always found on or near the ground. Long-eared Owls have conspicuous, long ear tufts and are much darker and more heavily marked than Barn Owls.
Barn Owls have a worldwide distribution with substantial variation in size and in the patterns of buff and white in the plumage. However, the subspecies found in the United States and Canada does not show substantial geographic variation.
Find This Bird
Many people’s first sighting of a Barn Owl is while driving through open country at night—a flash of pale wings in the headlights is usually this species. Barn Owls also often live up to their name, inhabiting barns and other old, abandoned buildings, so keep an eye out for them there. Barn Owls don’t hoot the way most other owls do; you can listen for their harsh screeches at night.