Barn owl divorce

Barn owls are monogamous and usually pair up for the long term, but in a few cases barn owl partnerships are broken if the birds are incompatible. Compatibility is determined by their reproductive success, and a failed nesting year is often the tipping point for barn owls.

Researchers have found that divorce is beneficial to both owls in the incompatible partnership, as they can seek alternate mates to ensure they can raise strong fledgelings. If a pair breaks up, it is usually initiated by the female. The male owl will seek a younger mate, whereas the female will opt for a male her own age. The male retains the territory and the female leave to find a new breeding site.

Divorce is rare in birds and faithful pairs co-ordinate well and have offspring that are more likely to survive but birds that fail to breed will find success with more compatible partners.


Get a front row seat to the animal kingdom every month with World of Animals for only £3.99, or get a great deal by subscribing online today.



Image from