Barn Owl in Moonlight
Original Painting Medium: Oil on Canvas
Scientific Name: Tyto alba
In 1999 I was commissioned to portray a barn owl flying across a meadow at night. For my oil painting I decided to portray my owl on a bright moonlight night. Needing reference material, I initially visited an owl sanctuary but I was later given the opportunity to study and portray the detail and beautiful markings of this remarkable bird, at close quarters.
Sadly a friend had found a dead barn owl on the roadside and knowing that I collect reference material, he very kindly brought it home for me. To be able to observe this beautiful bird in such detail was both breath-taking and extremely sad.
Barn owl numbers have declined drastically over the past twenty years due to habitat destruction, pollution and intensive agricultural methods. To discover a dead barn owl on the roadside is tragic. A barn owl perched on a fence or silently gliding across a field whilst hunting is now such a rare sight in our countryside.
The barn owl flying at dusk looks pure white, yet seeing it closely reveals that it is a mixture of various shades of pale gold, with brown, grey and black speckles. The barn owl is most often seen in flight, hunting over open permanent pasture searching for small mammals such as voles, mice and shrews. These regular patrols may be punctuated by short rests on a fence post.
Year after year barn owls will return to established roosts and breeding sites in old barns, trees, cliffs and in the attics of old buildings. Their calls include a variety of hoarse shrieks that have given them, over the centuries, the reputation as a bird of ill omen.