SOLL has been active in Barn Owl box building for a number of years now. With a couple of successful pairs having moved in and breeding in their box’s. Peter and Lynne Flower have been running this project from the beginning.
In the last two years an initial stage of 12 new barn owl boxes have been built to the highest specification and placed across the SOLL area, particularly where barn owls have been observed.
The weather has been kind to small mammals and in turn supplied plentiful food for the owls, and good conditions for hunting. 2 boxes in the area (one of our newly erected, and one placed by a farmer in his hay barn) have had a pair of nesting barn owls, and both have produced 4 chicks. The records of these nests will be sent to the BTO and help in their understanding of barn owl populations. Barn Owls have a special protection, and their nests can only be inspected by licenced operators. The young chicks in these boxes have been ringed by our Licenced ringer. Retrieval of rings from dead or injured birds also helps build the picture of their movements.
A few facts about Barn Owls.
1. Barn Owls are found on every continent except Antarctica.
2. The Latin name for Barn Owl is Tyto alba.
3. Barn Owls eat mainly small mammals like voles, shrews and mice. Prey is often swallowed whole and indigestible parts, such as bones and fur, are then regurgitated (coughed up) in the form of an owl pellet.
4. When viewed from above Barn Owls are well camouflaged, as the rough grassland over which they usually hunt is predominantly light brown for most of the year. When viewed from below their white under sides are hard to see against the light of the sky.
5. Barn Owls have remarkably long legs, toes and talons enabling them to catch prey hidden at the base of deep vegetation.
6. Barn Owls can breed at virtually any time of year providing there is sufficient food to bring up their young
7. Barn Owls prefer to nest in barns.
8. Their favourite prey is field voles and other small rodents. On average a wild Barn Owl eats about 4 small mammals per night, that’s 1,460 per year!
9. A Barn Owl`s ears are offset, with one ear higher than the other, to enable it to hear the rustling sound made by voles and mice and to locate its prey accurately. During flight, the left ear captures sounds below while the right ear focuses on sounds from above.
10. The feathers on the edge of the Barn Owls’ face create a disc, which works to trap and focus sound, rather like our outer ears.
11. A Barn owl is also known as the Screech Owl due to its unmusical call.
12. The exact number of Barn Owls in the UK is not known but there’s almost certainly a lot less than 4,000 pairs.
13. Their decline is attributed to loss of breeding sites (barn conversions etc), loss of good grassland habitat for mice and voles and the use of rodenticides to kill mice and voles as part of the changes in farming practice.
14. No actual nest is made, though the female may form a slight hollow. The clutch size is highly variable: four to seven eggs are normal, but as many as 14 have been recorded. Like all owls, incubations starts when the first egg is laid.
15. Hatching is asynchronous, which means that each egg hatches 30 days after it was laid, so the smallest chick in a brood may be two weeks younger than its eldest sibling. Chicks will make their first flights when around 50-55 days old, but won’t be independent of their parents for another month.