|African grass owl, Tyto capensis|
The "grass owls" are two rather long-legged species of Tyto.
Throughout their evolutionary history, Tyto owls have shown a better capability to colonize islands than other owls. Several such island forms have become extinct, some long ago, but some in comparatively recent times. A number of insular barn owls from the Mediterranean and the Caribbean were very large or truly gigantic species.
Seventeen species are recognized:
|Image||Common name||Scientific name||Distribution|
|Greater sooty owl||Tyto tenebricosa||Australia|
|Lesser sooty owl||Tyto multipunctata||Australia|
|Minahassa masked owl||Tyto inexspectata||Sulawesi, Indonesia|
|Taliabu masked owl||Tyto nigrobrunnea||Sula Islands, Maluku, Indonesia|
|Moluccan masked owl||Tyto sororcula||south Moluccas of Indonesia|
|Manus masked owl||Tyto manusi||Manus Island in the Admiralty Islands|
|Golden masked owl||Tyto aurantia||the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea|
|Australian masked owl||Tyto novaehollandiae||Southern New Guinea and the non-desert areas of Australia.|
|Sulawesi masked owl||Tyto rosenbergii||the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi, Sangihe and Peleng|
|Red owl||Tyto soumagnei||Madagascar|
|Western barn owl||Tyto alba||Eurasia and Africa.|
|American barn owl||Tyto furcata||the Americas|
|Eastern barn owl||Tyto javanica||southeast Asia and Australasia.|
|Andaman masked owl||Tyto deroepstorffi||southern Andaman Islands|
|Ashy-faced owl||Tyto glaucops||Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic).|
|African grass owl||Tyto capensis||southern Congo and northern Angola to the central coast of Mozambique and the other centred on South Africa from the Western Cape north to the southern extremities of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique.|
|Eastern grass owl||Tyto longimembris||eastern, southern and southeast Asia, parts of New Guinea, Australia (mainly in Queensland) and the western Pacific|
- Known from ancient fossils
- Tyto sanctialbani (Middle - Late Miocene of Central Europe) - formerly in Strix; includes T. campiterrae
- Tyto robusta (Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of the Gargano Peninsula, Italy)
- Tyto gigantea (Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of the Gargano Peninsula, Italy)
- Tyto balearica (Late Miocene - Middle Pleistocene of the west-central Mediterranean)
- Tyto mourerchauvireae (Middle Pleistocene of Sicily, Mediterranean)
- Tyto jinniushanensis (Pleistocene of Jing Niu Shan, China)
- Tyto maniola – Cuban Dwarf Barn Owl (Late Pleistocene of Cuba)
- Tyto sp. 1
- Tyto sp. 2
- Late prehistoric extinctions usually known from subfossil remains
- Mussau barn owl (Tyto cf. novaehollandiae) found in Mussau
- New Ireland greater barn owl (Tyto cf. novaehollandiae) found in New Ireland
- New Ireland lesser barn owl (Tyto cf. alba/aurantiaca) found in New Ireland
- New Caledonian barn owl (Tyto letocarti) found in New Caledonia - tentatively placed here
- Puerto Rican barn owl (Tyto cavatica) found in Puerto Rico - may still have existed up to 1912; possibly a subspecies of the ashy-faced owl (Tyto glaucops)
- Noel's barn owl (Tyto noeli) found in Cuba
- Rivero's barn owl (Tyto riveroi) found in Cuba
- Cuban barn owl (Tyto sp.) found in Cuba
- Hispaniolan barn owl (Tyto ostologa) found in Hispaniola
- Bahaman barn owl (Tyto pollens) found in Little Exuma, New Providence, and maybe Andros Island, the Bahamas - may have survived into the 16th century
- Barbuda barn owl (Tyto neddi) found in Barbuda and possibly Antigua
- Maltese barn owl (Tyto melitensis) found in Malta - formerly in Strix; possibly a paleosubspecies of Tyto alba
A number of owl fossils were at one time assigned to the present genus, but are nowadays placed elsewhere. While there are clear differences in osteology between typical owls and barn owls, there has been parallel evolution to some degree and thus isolated fossil bones cannot necessarily be assigned to either family without thorough study. Notably, the genus Strix has been misapplied by many early scientists as a "wastebasket taxon" for many owls, including Tyto.
- Tyto antiqua (Late Eocene/Early Oligocene of Quercy? - Early Miocene of France) was a barn owl of the prehistoric genus Prosybris; this taxon might be a nomen nudum, as the species was originally described in Strix, this requires confirmation
- Tyto edwardsi (Late Miocene of Grive-Saint-Alban, France) was a strigid owl, but has not yet been reliably identified to a genus; it might belong in Strix or the European Ninox-like group.
- Tyto ignota (Middle Miocene of Sansan, France) was a strigid owl of unclear affinities; while it might belong into Strix, this requires confirmation
- "TMT 164", a distal left tarsometatarsus of a supposed Tyto from the Middle Miocene Grive-Saint-Alban (France); might also belong in Prosybris, as it is similar to Tyto antiqua
They are darker on the back than the front, usually an orange-brown colour, the front being a paler version of the back or mottled, although there is considerable variation even amongst species. Tyto owls have a divided, heart-shaped facial disc, and lack the ear-like tufts of feathers found in many other owls. Tyto owls tend to be larger than bay owls. The name tyto (τυτώ) is onomatopeic Greek for owl.
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Systematics and distribution of the living and fossil small barn owls of the West Indies (Aves: Strigiformes: Tytonidae)". Zootaxa. 4830 (3): 544–564. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4830.3.4. ISSN 1175-5334.
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