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Barn owl down

The Barn Owl is a species of open country, favouring lowland habitats such as farmland and young plantation woodland. Populations have recovered somewhat from an earlier period of decline and have benefited from the erection of nest boxes and appropriate habitat management. Barn Owl is listed on Schedule One of the Wildlife & Countryside Act and so receives additional protection during the breeding season; a Schedule One licence is required to visit the nest of this species.

Today i Unfortunately came across numerous deceased carcasses of early fledglings. Sadly they appear to have emerged from my nest boxes a tad to early and not able to fly they had fallen to the ground. If a young Owlet ends up on the floor then the parents tend not to feed them resulting in a slow death. We did manage to ring numerous owlets and net a few adult birds also. This provides such valuable information in order for us to learn and understand how these birds are coping.

The Barn Owl is not a particularly vocal species, the drawn out screech of the male only likely to be heard during the early stages of the breeding season.Barn Owl chicks make a hissing call, sometimes referred to as ‘snoring’, when in the nest. This is used as a begging call and may be heard early in the evening when the chicks are waiting for one of their parents to make a feeding visit. The extent to which a chick calls provides an indication to its siblings of the individual’s willingness to compete for the next food item to be delivered.

Pale in its general appearance, the Barn Owl is white beneath and has upperparts that are washed with golden buff. Some individuals can look particularly ‘washed out’, while others are darker and have more strongly patterned plumage. Female Barn Owls are typically darker in their colouration than males and, additionally, have marked speckling on their flanks and underwing, which is rare in males. The dark-breasted race guttata, which occurs on the continent, may sometimes appear in Britain; such individuals are much darker in their appearance than our resident birds. In flight, adult Barn Owls may be confused with Short-eared Owl, a species alongside which they may hunt, though the latter species has more strongly patterned plumage and piercing yellow eyes.

This breeding season has been a huge success although my NewInn village pair failed to produce due to the loss of the female. This sadly died at the nest site. All my other broods produced good numbers with 5 to 6 chicks in each nest box making it to adulthood. Unfortunately I did find 3 other deceased owlets under the nest boxes but the overwhelming majority survived and fledged. This year over 30 Barn Owl chicks fledged out of my nest boxes and fingers crossed next year some of these will take to other nest boxes I have in place.


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