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Barn Owls

Location: Texas

Camera Host: Anonymous

Possible Siblicide Alert

Unfortunately the youngest Texas Barn Owls nestling passed away, likely due to starvation and was later consumed by its siblings on May 18. The second youngest owlet is also a lot smaller than its siblings and may not survive. Siblicide (where a sibling may be killed by a nestmate) and starvation of the youngest owlets has been observed at this nest in the past and may occur again because of competition for food and the difference in size between the owlets. Siblicide is a natural event and a well-documented behavior for nestlings of some bird species, including Barn Owls (click here to see our FAQ for more details). Please choose an option below to keep watching or to view another cam.

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May 19, 2015

Youngest Owlet Gets Fed

More positive signs for the youngest owlet (owlet 4), as we watch Mom feed the lively young bird small pieces of rat. Despite being much smaller than its siblings the fourth owlet appears to have energy and is at the front of the queue when it comes to getting fed.  

May 19, 2015

Mom Feeds All Owlets

It was great to watch all the owlets get a share of the remains of a rat or rabbit in the morning. The 4th owlet is looking small, but appears to have energy. A rabbit was delivered 21:57 and a rat 22:04 05/18. We are unsure if anything was delivered between midnight and 7AM as the cam stream was interrupted. More...

May 18, 2015

Mom Delivers Rat

We think the rat was consumed by one of the older owlets. There were at least 3 earlier deliveries of prey- rat at 10:29PM from Dottie and mice at 10:46PM and 11:55PM from Casper. The fifth owlet can no longer be seen in the box. It was last seen on the entrance side, and is out of view of the cam. Unfortunately the likelihood of survival is looking slim for the youngest nestling. 

May 19, 2015

Youngest Owlet Gets Fed

More positive signs for the youngest owlet (owlet 4), as we watch Mom feed the lively young bird small pieces of rat. Despite being much smaller than its siblings the fourth owlet appears to have energy and is at the front of the queue when it comes to getting fed.  

May 18, 2015

Mom Delivers Rat

We think the rat was consumed by one of the older owlets. There were at least 3 earlier deliveries of prey- rat at 10:29PM from Dottie and mice at 10:46PM and 11:55PM from Casper. The fifth owlet can no longer be seen in the box. It was last seen on the entrance side, and is out of view of the cam. Unfortunately the likelihood of survival is looking slim for the youngest nestling. 

May 17, 2015

Casper and Dottie Hunting

A special thanks to Bird Cams viewer Debbie for capturing the moment when Casper delivered a rabbit to the nest. The two youngest struggle to get bites at first, but Dottie does manage to feed them eventually. Dottie has started contributing to the hunting now. She delivered a mouse around 2:50AM. 

May 18

Youngest Owlet Passed Away

Unfortunately, despite both parents now hunting, the youngest owlet passed away. In the early hours of the morning the smallest owlets were pushed aside once again during a feeding by the female parent. The 5th owlet appeared weak and was then moved by a sibling out of view of the camera. We think the young bird died of starvation. The owlet was later fed to its siblings by the parent. We completely understand how upsetting it is to watch death occur on the cams, we are also saddened by these events. The birds are wild and have chosen to nest in the box, as a pair have done at this same site for many years. Unfortunately the death of a nestling in the wild is not unusual. One 16-year Barn Owl study in Utah (Marti, 1994) found that, on average, only 63 percent of eggs laid hatched and 87 percent of hatchlings survived to fledging. When food is scarce, aggression may result from competition for food and juveniles may starve, especially in broods of four or more. It is common for owlets like these to hatch within days of each other and typically the eldest are most dominant, as we have seen recently, the two oldest owlets get to the food before the younger nestlings. The youngest was very small in comparison to its siblings. As in real life nature shows us beautiful and profound moments, as well as moments that seem tragic or difficult to comprehend at times. At the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we look to nature as our teacher. We hope that you, like us, will choose to watch, question, and learn from what we see. The Bird Cams are intended to interfere with nature as little as possible.  

May 09

Fifth Owlet Hatched

The fifth owlet hatched around 9:30PM. Again, this owlet is small and much weaker than its older siblings, as with the fourth owlet there is the risk that this owlet may not survive. Thanks to Twitter follower Sophialist for the great image. 

May 07

Fourth Owlet Hatched

The owlet hatched in the morning and is very small. The age gap is great between it and its oldest sibling. There is the possibility that the little one may not survive. Click 'More...' for further information on Barn Owl survival.  

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.

Drink Birds & Beans coffee. Save our birds.
Drink Birds & Beans coffee. Save our birds.