Why is Nevada so sparse in Barn owls?

When I went down a taxonomy rabbit hole and saw the map of barn owl observations, it looked bizarrely empty in Nevada

This is probably a silly question… but are there intentional culling events/population control policies or something? Is it due to habitat loss? Or does the natural range of the barn owl simply not pass through that region? Or another reason entirely?

I don’t know much about birds in general, but this seems interesting and I would be curious to know more

(Also no need to worry, my actual location isn’t where the blue dropper is)

Much of Nevada is either too arid and/or too high elevation for Barn Owls. For this reason, Barn Owls are most prevalent in the northwestern valleys and the southern tip. This seems to track with the iNat observations for the state:


I think a lot of Barn Owls in Nevada also roost/nest in old abandoned mines. Obviously, these are not as accessible to human observers compared to the barns, old silos, and nest boxes they use in other parts of their range.

The Barn Owl Box Company produces some population summaries by state that you may be interested in reading: State Barn Owl Populations.


Only half-joking, but I think the population of barns in Nevada is lacking. I’ve hardly seen any driving there (though I’ve only been in limited portions of the state) probably because the climate limits agriculture to less barn-intensive types than other states. I would guess that it’s a combination of actually lower owl populations (due to less suitable habitat) as well as those owls that are present using habitats in areas less frequented by observers as @swampster noted.


I’m not by any means a population expert or anything, but something I’d like to add is that Nevada is somewhat sparsely populated and they are most common in agricultural areas so therefore the amount of people would see them if they are present is probably low. Then, the people who would see them and upload them to iNat is even lower. Just because the amount of observations in an area is low doesn’t nessicary mean that the population is low, BUT I do suspect that Nevada as @swampster has mentioned the whole of Nevada isn’t really a great habitat for them because elevations above 5000 feet aren’t suitable for Barn Owls.

Voles, mice, and other small rodents are generally what they feed upon so where they are present the owls will be.


eBird might be better for Nevada records as those don’t rely on getting a photo. But I also agree with previous comments about habitat and accessibility in Nevada.


That’s interesting, thanks for the info!

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This isn’t really a barn owl specific phenomenon. Many animals (including humans), are more sparsely populated in Nevada and the intermountain region in general. It turns out it’s not easy to inhabit hot and arid environments. Nevada in particular is mostly all desert.


I think this is likely the case. Nevada has lots of abandoned mines (I’ve seen them using old mine shafts in SW New Mexico), although mostly in pretty harsh desert areas, and these could provide good nesting habitat for the species. But the foraging habitat in much of the state might not be all that great. Then there’s the limitations on detectability in much of the state given limited access and probably few birders working those areas. In short, likely low density combined with low detectability = few records.