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Barn Owls

Location: Texas

Camera Host: Anonymous

Find more about Weather in Italy, TX

March 27, 2015

Could we see eggs soon?

Last year the female laid her first egg in the nest April 8 and we should see eggs around the same time this year. Courtship between the owls usually goes on for around a month before fertilization and it is thought that food availability and climate determine when the breeding season starts. The owls have been mating for a few weeks, however not every mating attempt will result in fertilized eggs and we are therefore unable to tell when the female will be developing fertile eggs until they are laid. Egg laying occurs around 14 days after fertilization. 

February 28, 2015

Barn Owls Spend Every Day in the Box

The Texas Barn Owls have now spent every day together in the box since 12 February. Who is looking forward to the breeding season ahead? 

February 20, 2015

Barn Owls Continue to Mate

The Texas Barn Owls have been copulating now every day for a week in preparation for the coming breeding season. The male has been bringing in gifts of small mammals for the female. You can see a mouse on the floor of the box in this clip that has not yet been eaten by the female. More...

February 20, 2015

Barn Owls Continue to Mate

The Texas Barn Owls have been copulating now every day for a week in preparation for the coming breeding season. The male has been bringing in gifts of small mammals for the female. You can see a mouse on the floor of the box in this clip that has not yet been eaten by the female. More...

February 12, 2015

Male Attempts to Mate with Female

Last year's Barn Owl parents spent a lot of time together in the box through the night of February 11-12. In this clip we can see that the male attempts to copulate with the female. The attempt was unsuccessful, however it is a good sign for the breeding season ahead. Hopefully we will see another brood from this pair this year. 

February 11, 2015

Female Barn Owl Returns

Much to what appears to be the male's delight the adult female Barn Owl from last year returns to the nest box. The excitement of the greeting can indicate signs of aggression as we watch the kicking from the male, this behavior is appeased by bill-fencing initiated by the female. She does a good job at calming down the male. Later in the night the male attempts to mate with the female. It did not appear to be successful, but these are all good signs for another breeding season ahead. 

February 13

Female Caches Small Rodent Likely From Male

A sign that serious courtship is starting, the male has started bringing the female small prey offerings before copulation. Good signs of another breeding season ahead. 

February 11

Female Barn Owl Returns

The female Barn Owl from last year returned to the box for the first time in 2015. More...

February 06

New Box and New Outside Cam

At the beginning of February we created a new Barn Owl box, removing last year's nest box. We also added an outside camera! The new box design includes a porch which we predict this year's owlets will hopefully use to branch outside the nest before making their first flights. The night the new box went up the male parent from last year returned. We are taking that as a good sign. More...

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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