Barn Owl, Abaco Bahamas (Woody Bracey)

Barn Owl, Abaco, Bahamas (Woody Bracey)


The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is the only owl you are likely to see – and hear – on Abaco. The species is permanently resident, which is a good start in that sighting opportunities exist year-round. Although they are not at all common they can be found in particular locations, for example around Treasure Cay and Little Harbour; also on Elbow Cay, Lubbers Quarters (4 birds right now) and Man-o-War Cay (a while back). There are two other owl species recorded for Abaco: the rare Burrowing Owl (see link below for details); and the Northern Saw-whet Owl, a vanishingly rare vagrant recorded a handful of times that I don’t propose to feature unless and until it decides to visit Abaco more frequently…

Barn Owl (Birdorable)

I wrote about Barn Owls on Abaco many moons ago. I don’t usually rehash previous posts, but I am returning to the topic because of a recent barn owl sighting on Elbow Cay that caused interest, excitement and some speculation. 

Barn Owl, Treasure Cay, Abaco Bahamas (Becky Marvil)

Barn Owl, Treasure Cay, Abaco Bahamas (Becky Marvil)

The shrill wheezing cry of the Barn Owl – known in some places as the ‘screech owl’ (which, strictly, is a different owl species) – is unmistakeable. Barn owls also make an intimidating hissing noise. Mainly nocturnal, they fly noiselessly like white ghosts in the night. If you are lucky enough to see one in the daytime, you’ll be struck by the beautiful heart-shaped face and (if close enough) the delicate markings.

 Patrik Aberg Xeno-Canto

Both photos above were taken on Abaco. Woody Bracey’s header image is featured inTHE BIRDS OF ABACO“. Becky Marvil’s photo was taken near Treasure Cay. I’ve never seen a barn owl on Abaco, but  I’ve been lucky enough to get close to them in the UK. For those who have never seen one, here are a few of my own images that show what wonderful birds they are. They were photographed at a raptor rescue centre, so I am not going to pretend that these shots were taken in the wild. That would never do. 

Barn Owl (Keith Salvesen)Barn Owl Dorset (Keith Salvesen) Barn Owl Dorset (Keith Salvesen)Barn Owl 4 (Keith Salvesen)

This close-up of the barn owl above shows the typical speckling on its pure white front, and the beautiful wing patterns. Amazingly for such a large bird, an adult weighs a mere 350g or so. As a comparison, The Birds of Abaco book weighs 2kg!

Barn Owl close-up (Keith Salvesen)

This fluffy baby barn owl had been rescued and was being cared for in a sanctuary before being returned to the wild. Whimsy is rarely permitted  in this blog, but seriously, folks – cuteness overload!Barn Owl 6 (Keith Salvesen)




Credits: Woody Bracey, Becky Marvil, Keith Salvesen, Patrik Aberg /  Xeno-Canto (audio), RSPB (video), Birdorable (Cartoon)


    • So pleased to hear there’s still one (hopefully two… one of each sex for the family part) around on EC. Did you see it in north EC, or further south? I’m based in the UK, but any reason to come over is welcome! Thanks for the comment. RH


    • Had a 5 am encounter with a Barn Owl in Treasure Cay at 430am on 5-Jan, 2023. I let my dogs (spaniels) out for potty break. The Owl swooped in to check them out 3 times. The dock lights combined with some christmas lights illuminated the area and 100% it was a large Barn Owl, wingspan of 6+ feet… Very Cool. Nice to see a post dorian Barn Owl!


      • I don’t see my post….. What the heck am I doing wrong? Anyway, I am happy to contribute anyway you need. Where would I keep a sighting record? Also had a manatee at the fuel dock in Treasure Cay last week…I have a boat at my dock and am active in the waters off Treasure. If I can be a spotter for anything lmk.



      • Thanks so much for the info. I think keep the owl sightings in your diary (and memory)! I will pass the good news of the manatee sighting to my BMMRO colleagues at Sandy Point – they keep track of sightings. If it is still there, or you see it again and can take a photo for ID purposes, do please send to me at The paddle (tail) is the most helpful way to ID an individual – each animal has unique markers


    • Hi Laura, thanks for letting me know. These lovely birds are permanent residents on Abaco but are generally uncommon. I know of other occasional sightings on Elbow Cay, but it’s an unusual pleasure to see one. Barns are pretty much the only owl found on Abaco* – so if you saw an owl, especially its white heart-shaped face, that is what it was. I do keep a note of sightings, so I will add yours to the list.
      *Burrowing owls are very very rarely seen, and Saw-Whet Owls are vanishingly rare.


  1. I so enjoyed this thorough celebration of the barn owl, RH, thanks. I think the white, ghostly barn owl, so huge, and with that really scary screech is so special and so memorable. Enjoyed the video and audio elements, and always, the photos.



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