thumbnail Barn owl, England
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Barn owl, England © Ondrej Prosicky/Getty Images
Barn owls, distinguished by their white heart-shaped faces, are one of the world"s most widespread birds, found on every continent except Antarctica. They live in woodlands, farms, and on cliffs, but barn owls also enjoy roosting in places like bell towers and barns—hence the name. They are nighttime predators that fly over open lands to hunt rats and mice. During heavy rain, they are unable to hunt because their feathers aren"t waterproof, leaving them vulnerable to starvation during long periods of wet weather. Although some see them as a symbol of wisdom and fortune, their haunting cries and ghostly appearance mean they have often been seen as bad omens in rural areas.