Status in Northern Ireland:
Small breeding population; Year-round resident. Listed as a Northern Ireland Priority Species.
An instantly recognisable medium-sized owl with a pale heart-shaped face rimmed with a brown edge, dark eyes and a rounded head without ear tufts. Its underparts are pale to pure white with a few small dark teardrop-shaped spots on the chest (often more on females) and its upperparts are a pale buffy yellow-brown colour with dark grey markings. Often seen hunting at dawn or dusk with a characteristically buoyant flight, quartering low over rough grassland, along riverbanks, roadside verges, field margins and around farm buildings where it hunts for small mammals such as shrews, mice and rats. It is also known to eat frogs, bats, lizards, beetles and small birds. It nests inside mature hollow trees, in rock crevices, and in used and disused buildings, especially church steeples and barns. Readily takes to artificial nest boxes in the right habitat. Conservation threats include agricultural intensification, secondary poisoning from anticoagulant rodenticides, climate change (especially prolonged periods of inclement weather), loss of nest sites, road traffic collisions and drowning in farm water troughs.