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Aves, 54/4 | 2017 | 179-188

  How have genetic tools contributed to our knowledge of the Barn Owl Tyto alba?
Sylvain Antoniazza

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Article summary

Most European birdwatchers know that there is a substantial variability in colour in Barn Owls Tyto alba, varying between individuals from white to dark brown. It may be less well known that in fact there is a clinal variation in Barn Owl colour from the south west of Europe to the north east. This geographical variation in colour has led some ornithologists to conclude that the variants result from the species having survived, and evolved, in two different glacial refugia. The present article explains how genetic tools do not confirm this hypothesis, but rather show that the all the Barn Owls of the European continent result from one relatively recent colonization originating in the Iberian Peninsula. The tools also show how the brown variants of the Barn Owl have evolved from the entirely white variant.


  • Sylvain Antoniazza
    Station ornithologique Suisse,
    CH-6204 Sempach, Suisse