Richard and Diane Van Vleck Personal Pages
The Home Habitat

2014 Barn Owl Nesting
Barn owls nested in box 2 on the barn again this summer. The first of 4 eggs was laid on 5/14 and the nesting was uneventful. Although a female had entered the new box "1" several times, there was no second pair nesting this year.  The visitor to box 1 was likely the same female nesting in box 2.  I had finally converted the silo to a chimney swift shaft, which precluded the second pair from nesting there again or the male from using the silo for his day roost.

Nestling barn owl on perch with vole
barn owl nestlings
barn owl young in box
7/18/14
7/21/14
 
nestling barn owls
barn owl nestlings
7/23/14
7/26/14
 
Tyto alba nestlings
barn owl nestlings
7/27/14
7/31/14
 
barn owls in nest box
barn owls
8/5/14
 
8/9/14
 
older nestling barn owls
barn owl
8/12/14
 
8/14/14
 
older barn owl nestlings
barn owl nestlings ready to leave nest
8/17/14
 
8/20/14
 
nestling owls on perch
barn owl youn on perch
Nestlings venturing out on perch
 
Nestlings waiting for food
 
owlets nearing fledge time
barn owls ready to fledge
barn owls ready to fledge
 
The nestbox perch allows room to flap
 
Continuous video monitoring of barn owl prey brought to nest

Prey provisioning was recorded on continuous video each night, beginning the first night the female left the box to resume hunting. This ensured that all prey items recorded were consumed only by the nestlings.

 
Table of barn owl prey provided each day
barn owl prey brought to the nest
The missing data on Aug 3, 4 and 12 was due to video being overwritten or a momentary power failure stopping the recording. In one case, a spider continually wove it's web across the lens in the early morning. Also, nights with few prey were due to prolonged rain, making hunting less than ideal.
2014 barn owl nesting - Number of prey brought to nest
Beginning the night the female left the nest box to resume hunting
DATE 8pm 9pm 10pm 11pm 12pm 1am 2am 3am 4am 5am TOTAL
7/6/2014     1 1 3   3 2     10
7/7/2014           1 2 3     6
7/8/2014       1   3 3 1     8
7/9/2014         4 4 1 1     10
7/10/2014       2 1 2 1 4 1   11
7/11/2014   1   1 1 3 2       8
7/12/2014     1 1 5 3 2       12
7/13/2014   1   1 2 2 2       8
7/14/2014   1 1 1 2   1       6
7/15/2014   1 2   2 3 2 4     14
7/16/2014     1 2 1 1 3 2     10
7/17/2014     1 1 3 3   2     10
7/18/2014     2 2 2 3 3 2     14
7/19/2014   2   1 2 2 1 3     11
7/20/2014         2 2 2 3 1   10
7/21/2014         4 1 4 1     10
7/22/2014         1 2 1       4
7/23/2014     1 2   2 3 1 3   12
7/24/2014       1 3 4 2 1     11
7/25/2014       3 5 2 2 1 1   14
7/26/2014       1 2 2   2     7
7/27/2014         3   1 1 2   7
7/28/2014       2 2 3 4 2 1   14
7/29/2014   2   1 2 2 2 2     11
7/30/2014   1 2 1 1 2 4 1 1   13
7/31/2014         1 3 4 3 1   12
8/1/2014     1   2 4   1 2   10
8/2/2014       1   1 2 1 1   6
8/3/2014                     0
8/4/2014                     0
8/5/2014       2 3 2 2       9
8/6/2014       2   3 3 1 1   10
8/7/2014     1 4 2 4 2 3     16
8/8/2014     1 3 2 1 1 2 1   11
8/9/2014       2 2 4 2 2     12
8/10/2014       3 1 3 2 2     11
8/11/2014       1 1     1     3
8/12/2014                     0
8/13/2014   1   1 1 3 3 3     12
8/14/2014   1 1 1 3 2 1 1     10
8/15/2014   1 1   2 2 2 1     9
8/16/2014   1 2   2 1 1       7
8/17/2014       2 1 2 1       6
8/18/2014     1   1 1 1       4
8/19/2014         1 5         6
TOTAL 0 13 20 47 78 93 78 60 16 0  

2015 - No Barn Owls!

A prolonged snow cover in the previous winter, including a layer of ice had kept the meadow voles safely under cover, which may be the reason that no barn owls have been seen or heard since December, 2014. Nest box monitoring, beginning in January, 2015 showed no owl visits.  The boom and bust cycle of meadow voles every few years has been well documented by many sources and can be linked to nesting success of barn owls the following year.  However, I have never been able to judge such a boom and bust cycle of voles on our property. There were numerous vole trails exposed when the snow melted and our resident foxes seemed to do quite well. But, barn owls are not equiped to break through deep snow and ice to reach their prey.

The conventional thought is that barn owls often starve to death during such weather.  But, another possibility is that the owls resort to hunting rodents in surrounding barn yards and feed lots where bare ground is exposed and mice and rats are present.  These barn yard rodents are often poisoned with the second generation rodenticides, including brodifacoum.  The mice continue to live for several days, while consuming more of the poison bait - enough to kill a barn owl. 

Whatever the fate of all our barn owls, nest box video monitoring will begin this week (Feb 2016). The ground is still snow-covered, but our cat ventures out for an hour or so each day and frequently comes back with a vole. Hopefully, at least one pair will use one of the owl boxes again this year.

2016 Still no barn owls! - While both barred owls and great horned owls are heard in the area, there has been no sign of a barn owl yet. This has been a mild winter with almost no snow cover as of Feb 14, 2017. Still hoping!


2022 – The barn owls finally return!

When inspecting the chimney swift’s nest in their shaft in the silo, I was surprised to hear the long hoped for guttural hiss of a barn owl. This is the second year the swifts have used the shaft, but barn owls have not nested or been heard or seen on our property since 2014. My hope was that they would return to one of the three nest boxes provided for them on the barn. They had previously used these boxes many times until their disappearance after the 2014 nesting. I had since built six floors in the silo, each reached by a series of ladders. This allowed me access to build and monitor the swift tower. The owls have nested on the top floor, gaining access through an opening in the metal roof. There were only two nestlings when I discovered their presence on June 6, but, at least this small brood thrived and successfully fledged. After such a long absence, I’m just glad they are back, even though they have made quite a mess of the 6th floor. Maybe they will move back to one of the nest boxes next year.

barn owl nestlings
barn owl nest
The two nestlings discovered on June 6th.
June 29
barn owls
the silo entrance
July 13

The owl's entrance to the silo 6th floor. The trash can is the chimney swifts' entrance to their shaft.

On July 27 many barn owl feathers were found under a utility pole in the yard. This is the same pole where a barn owl was electrocuted by landing on the transformer in 1991. However, since then a bird guard has been in place preventing such a mishap. Also, I noticed that the feathers were scattered all around the base of the pole rather uniformly. And several feathers were draped on the transformer and others caught in a spider web far up the pole. The owl was butchered on top of the pole, not on the ground. This was, no doubt, the work of my friend, the great horned owl.
barn owl wing

So, at best, this barn owl nesting produced only one offspring, nowhere near enough to maintain the species since statistically, barn owls only successfully nest once in their short life. Anyway, THEY ARE BACK!

 

2014 Barn owl prey study
2012-2013 barn owl nesting
2011 barn owl nesting
2011 barn owl prey cam
2006 barn owl polygamy
2010 barn owl nesting
2003 barn owl nesting
2003 barn owl prey cam
The attic barn owl nest
Living with barn owls
The barn owl nest box
An interior barn owl box
Barn owl electrocution
The Barn Owl
2014 barn owl nesting - 2022 update The owls are back!

2022 update - Return of the barn owls
2021 Chimney Swift tower success!!!
2020 Barn Swallow nesting
Barn swallow nest cups
2019 Barn Swallows and Black Rat Snakes

2018 - The Barnyard Balance of Nature Goes Awry
Black rat snakes vs barn swallows, Northern flickers, kestrels and others

2018 Purple Martin preference for clam shells
2017 - Return of the Monarchs!
2017 Purple Martin prey photos
2010 - 2016 Northern flicker nestings
2014 house wren gourd use
2014 - A dramatic loss of many types of insects
2019-2020 Purple Martin nesting
2014 barn owl nesting - prey study
A new barn swallow shelter for 2013
2010 barn owl nesting
2010 Update
2016-2017 Kestrel nestings
Starling traps
Using blinds in the home habitat
Providing perches for birds
Providing snags for wildlife
The ugly young maple
2001 - 2013 nest cams
Use of tomato cages as hunting perches by insectivorous song birds
Vultures, beetles and the resurrection of life

Species of interest in our yard - photos and articles
barn owl American kestrel purple martin barn swallow Eastern bluebird
tufted titmouse Eastern phoebe yellow shafted flicker tree swallow chimney swift
house wren big brown bat Carolina wren brown thrasher catbird
Eastern wood-pewee
cedar waxwing Northern mockingbird
Blue-gray gnatcatcher
turkey vulture
Yellow warbler Acadian flycatcher

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