Birds of Prey: Barn Owls

We have a spectacular array of wild birds and animals around the farm and of course Tiggy's Barn Educational Farm and Petting Zoo have their very own Tig, a magnificent barn owl.

We've put together a little bit more information about Barn Owls to give our younger visitors a little more information on what makes them so special and why we have to protect this breed for future generations.

With a heart-shaped face, buff coloured back and wings and pure white under parts, the barn owl is a distinctive and much-loved countryside bird.

In the wild, Barn Owls tend to use traditional nesting sites holes in trees, or undisturbed buildings such as barns and outbuildings, ruins and in some areas, mines, cliffs and quarries.

Nest boxes are also used in suitable circumstances.

Clutch size and breeding success depends on the availability of their main prey, so there may be a considerable difference in breeding success between one year and another but in general female barn owls lay four to seven white eggs at 2-3 day intervals. Incubation lasts 30-31 days but the female begins hatching with the first egg.

The young birds hatch at two to three-day intervals and start to fly at 50-55 days.

Two broods may be reared. Sadly only 25% of young barn owls survive for 12 months or more and the average life span is 2-3 years. The oldest recorded barn owl in Europe is over 21 years although there are several records of 12-17 years.

Habitat

Barn owls require rough grassland with good populations of rodents especially voles. Field edges, the edges of watercourses and grass strips alongside woods provide ideal hunting habitat.

Recent studies suggest that a pair of owls require about 20-25 km of edge, with several suitable roosting sites, although this will vary in different parts of the country.

Hunting

Barn owls are mainly nocturnal, but may hunt before dusk and around dawn when feeding young and in daylight in winter. In Britain and Ireland, rodents comprise about 90% of their prey, especially short-tailed voles, followed by wood mice and brown rats, but there are regional and seasonal variations.

Prey is normally swallowed whole, with indigestible parts (fur, bones, teeth, feathers etc) regurgitated in large, smooth, blackish pellets, which accumulate at traditional nesting and roosting sites. Barn owls often hunt from exposed perches (eg fence-posts), but also in low flight. They have exceptional hearing and can find prey by sound alone.

It is said that a Barn Owl can actually hear a mouse's heartbeat in a 30ft sq room.

 

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