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Barn Owls

Location: Texas

Camera Host: Anonymous

Find more about Weather in Italy, TX

July 27, 2015

Empty Nest

All owlets left the nest box. The youngest was the last to go just after sunrise. They may return when the sun sets. 

July 24, 2015

Youngest Barn Owl Plays With Feather

The youngest fledgling Ollie was seen playing with a feather that mom Dottie dropped in the box the night before. Adult Barn Owls begin to go through a molt towards the end of a breeding season. Ollie nibbles on the feather and holds on to it with his feet, before he finally drops it from the porch. 

July 24, 2015

Huddle Puddle

With slightly lower morning temperatures the owls huddle together to share body heat. A long night of flying around has also got to be pretty exhausting. 

July 24, 2015

Huddle Puddle

With slightly lower morning temperatures the owls huddle together to share body heat. A long night of flying around has also got to be pretty exhausting. 

July 24, 2015

Youngest Barn Owl Plays With Feather

The youngest fledgling Ollie was seen playing with a feather that mom Dottie dropped in the box the night before. Adult Barn Owls begin to go through a molt towards the end of a breeding season. Ollie nibbles on the feather and holds on to it with his feet, before he finally drops it from the porch. 

July 22, 2015

Dad Calls Mom into the Box

Casper returned to the box in the evening, stomping and chirping, Dottie arrived soon after. We observed this behavior last season, but a little later in the season (mid August). We are able to hear a variety of chirrups, twitters and squeaks between the parents (they give each other little squeaks and chirrups when looking at one another). We also hear a continued twitter when the male is alone in the box. The male may be giving the characteristic acknowledgement or self-advertising call to the female. The behavior is thought to signal excitement and is seen as a friendly recognition, the males attention seeking notes may serve to preserve their pair bond. Thank you debbiemango for the great video. 

July 27

Empty Nest

All owlets left the nest box. The youngest was the last to go just after sunrise. They may return when the sun sets. 

July 14

Youngest Takes Flight

The youngest owlet took flight for the first time just after 9PM. 

July 13

Youngest Owlet Jumps on to Roof for First Time

Just after 9PM the youngest owlet jumped onto the roof of the nest box for the first time. It is a big step for the young Barn Owl.  

Barn Owl

Building

Nest Placement

Barn Owls put their nests in holes in trees, cliff ledges and crevices, caves, burrows in river banks, and in many kinds of human structures, including barn lofts, church steeples, houses, nest boxes, haystacks, and even drive-in movie screens.

Nest Description

The female makes a simple nest of her own regurgitated pellets, shredded with her feet and arranged into a cup. Unlike most birds, owls may use their nest sites for roosting throughout the year. Nest sites are often reused from year to year, often by different owls.

Clutch Size

2-18 eggs

Incubation Period

29-34 days

Nestling Period

50-55 days

Egg Description

Dull white, often dirtied by the nest.

Condition at Hatching

Helpless, covered in white down.

Mammals

Food

Barn Owls eat mostly small mammals, particularly rats, mice, voles, lemmings, and other rodents; also shrews, bats, and rabbits. Most of the prey they eat are active at night, so squirrels and chipmunks are relatively safe from Barn Owls. They occasionally eat birds such as starlings, blackbirds, and meadowlarks. Nesting Barn Owls sometimes store dozens of prey items at the nest site while they are incubating to feed the young once they hatch.

Typical Voice

Barn Owls don’t hoot the way most owls do; instead, they make a long, harsh scream that lasts about 2 seconds. It’s made mostly by the male, who often calls repeatedly from the air. Females give the call infrequently. A softer, more wavering version of this is termed a purring call. Males use it to invite a female to inspect a nest site, and females use it to beg for food from the male. Barn Owls also make a loud, 3-4 second hiss at intruders or predators that disturb the nest.more sounds

See full Species Info at All About Birds

About the Nest

TexasBarnOwl BoxThis Barn Owl box is nestled in the rafters of a large open-air pavilion on a ranch in Texas. Surrounded by grasslands and scrubby forest, the box has been occupied off-and-on by Barn Owls for as long as the landowner can recall. The Cornell Lab previously featured this nest site online from 2005-11, during which time resident owls had 11 nesting attempts, 7 of which successfully fledged at least one nestling. The camera system was updated in 2013, and a pair of owls arrived at the box during the last week of February 2014.

In addition to the Barn Owls, other birds of the open grasslands can be heard vocalizing in the background, including Eastern Phoebes, Tufted Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, and Western Meadowlarks.

About the Barn Owls

Little is known about the two Barn Owls who have taken up residence in this owl box. In 2013 a pair successfully fledged four young owls from this site and those same adults may have returned again in 2014. During the day the owls rest and preen, leaving to forage as night approaches. Listen for their eerie, raspy vocalizations throughout the day and keep track of their comings and goings throughout the night thanks to the infrared illuminator in the box (don’t worry—the light is invisible to the owls.)

Barn Owls are more sexually dimorphic than other owl species. The female is larger than the male, with a heavily spotted chest and more color on her head and body; in contrast, the male appears very white and pale. She creates the simple nest cup of shredded regurgitated pellets in which she’ll lay an average of 2-18 eggs and the male brings meals of small mammals for her and the nestlings. The female incubates the eggs as soon as they are laid, leading to “hatching asynchrony,” a situation where there are big differences in size between the nestlings based upon the hatch date of each. In years of scarcity, the smallest perish and are sometimes even consumed by their nest mates. Though nest failures such as this are difficult to watch, this strategy enables the parents to produce as many young as conditions allow.

Learn more about Barn Owls in our AllAboutBirds Species Guide.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to the landowners, who wish to remain anonymous, for allowing us access to this nest and to the property manager for helping to maintain the camera during the season.

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