Thursday, June 2, 2016

Our barn owls

A few years back, a customer of ours put us in touch with his friend, Scott Rashid from the Colorado Avian Research and Rehabilitation Institute.  He was looking for places to put barn owl boxes on farms to create places for barn owls to nest and hopefully raise their young.  Their main source of food are things like mice and voles, which we are happy to have someone help us eliminate.  (As a side note, we never use poisons, because it puts our dogs and cats at risk of ingesting a poisoned mouse, but also can put wildlife like snakes and owls at risk.)

Our cats do a great job with the mouse population, but they could use some help. We thought this was an awesome addition to the farm, and gives our mouse-fighting army some assistance with an air battalion!

Here's the barn owl house they installed on the east side of our barn.

Scott has been out to check and verified that not only did we have barn owls living in our house, but they hatched some eggs! We kept an eye out in the evenings to look for mom or dad flying in and out. Photos were hard to capture.  Here is a night shot of one of the adults out on a hunting trip.

Scott set up a time to bring his team out to tag the owls in our house. In this photo, he has the opening covered by a net in the hopes an adult would be there. The adult would likely try to fly out, but we would band that bird too.

No luck on mom or dad being present. But there were 6 owlets in the box! Boy do these owls scream! They sound like banshees, but they were just letting us know they were upset at being disturbed.  Scott brought all the owlets down and put them in containers, so they could be banded.

The metal leg bands don't hurt them, and allow them to be tracked. Scott's research has shown that not only do the parents NOT return to the same nest the following year, neither do the owlets. So once these little guys can fly, we won't see them again. But in the meantime, mom and dad are bringing back lots of mice to feed them, which is great.

Scott has said he has found owls he has banded tracked to New Mexico, Illinois and even upstate New York! I didn't realize these birds traveled so far.  He also said they are not on the endangered list, but their habitats are dwindling, so they are at risk. We're happy to host them on our farm any time. Good luck little birds! You are always welcome on the farm!

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