Dark-breasted Barn Owl I.D.

and the East Sussex bird

Darkish Barn Owl east sussex feb 13 dStunning ‘darkish’ Barn Owl. Southease, East Sussex, Feb.2013. All photos, same bird by Michael Southcott.

The reported Dark-breasted Barn Owl  at Southease, East Sussex this month drew Michael Southcott to visit and take some beautiful photos. Sharp-looking bird! He got in contact via our Facebook Page to explore the identification further. He asked really good questions on his blog.

To see a full set of photos go to Michael’s blog

darkish Barn Owl c 2013 02 16 East Sussex Feb 2013

So we asked Mr Paul (Harry P. to his friends) French who wrote the seminal ID paper in British Birds. He has responded in excellent detail:

Hi Martin

Regards the owl, it’s clearly not acceptable as guttata for the following reasons:

  • The pale undertail coverts and pale legs are the giveaway – they should be buff in guttata
  • pale underwing coverts – should be buff in guttata
  • white facial disc – should have extensive dark marks around the eye in guttata
  • pale grey primary tips – should be much darker grey in guttata
  • rather thin barring across primaries – should be broader in guttata and go across the whole feather
  • underpart spotting – this bird is rather lightly spotted, but may be OK for male guttata

So there really is nothing going for it as a guttata apart from a slightly more extensive buff breast than normal, and to be honest, I’m surprised that some information services are still listing it as such. Some female alba can show buff breasts like this, and there may well be a tendency for birds in the east of Britain (East Anglia mostly, but of course we don’t know where this bird was hatched) to exhibit more extensive buff breasts as a result of influence from the near Continent and the intergrade zone in the Low Countries and France. In short, this is either a British alba or possibly an intergrade from the near Continent, but I suspect it was hatched in Britain.

Best wishes, and see you soon.


darkish Barn Owl 2013 02 16 East Sussex Feb 2013

darkish Barn Owl b 2013 02 16 East Sussex Feb 2013Stunning ‘darkish’ Barn Owl. Southease, East Sussex, Feb.2013. All photos, same bird by Michael Southcott. Not a ‘full shilling’ guttata and perhaps just a well-marked female alba or possibly an intergrade.


About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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2 Responses to Dark-breasted Barn Owl I.D.

  1. Excellent reply, Interesting reading Many thanks Martin, big thank you to Paul French for sharing your knowledge on the subject …


    Mick …

  2. Justin Jansen says:

    A good Id article on pale Barn Owl vs Dark-breasted Barn Owl (our common bird) is published in Dutch Birding: http://www.dutchbirding.nl/journal.php?show_summary=true&journalid=225&contentid=2

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