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ONE THOUSAND RODENTS PER YEAR

By Nic.Korte

One thousand rodents per year is the estimated diet of a pair of barn owls and their young.  Reportedly, barn owls do not dine on chickens or any other domestic or wild birds except on very rare occasions.  Barn owls are nocturnal rodent specialists.  They are also not big enough to eat the family dog or cat—having existed with both of the latter on farms for generations.
  Barn owls are one of the most widely distributed birds in the world—found on every continent except Antarctica.  Sadly, this very good friend of humans is having difficulty over much of its North American range.  These owls habitually nested in large hollow trees, but now they use old buildings and holes in steep ditch banks or arroyos.  Unfortunately, modern construction and farming practices have eliminated most of the old buildings.  They may roost temporarily in modern pole barns but these structures lack the dark recesses and wide rafters necessary for a family of large owls.  Previously-identified former arroyo-cavity nesting areas in the Grand Valley have also been abandoned.  In one case, it appeared that the hole, if not the owls, had been used for target practice. Another location was overrun with dirt bike usage.  Thus, Grand Valley   

Audubon Society (GVAS) has embarked on a project to create nesting habitat for barn owls.  The photo shows a GVAS volunteer installing a nestbox in a steel barn. Various types of installations are being tried.  A couple of boxes have been hung in old silos, some have been installed in old buildings and a few have been mounted high up in trees—a mode apparently successful in the United Kingdom but unproven here.  
  Barn owls, while relatively large (16 inches long with a 42 inch wing span), are little more than feathers, bone and sinew, weighing in at a pound or less.  Hence, they are poorly insulated and probably are semi-migratory in the Grand Valley. At present, for the first time in many years, GVAS members are unaware of an active barn owl nest.  Is this a product of last winter’s excessive cold?  Has the lack of nest structures caused the local population to wink out? Maybe we just haven’t been able to find any. There have been a couple of reports of sightings this winter.  If you have a high barn with a quiet, dark corner or an abandoned silo and would like to host a barn owl structure, please contact Grand Valley Audubon. And, be on the lookout and report any sightings of a large, mostly white owl that lacks ear tufts.  {This post was written by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society.  Send questions/comments to nkorte1@hotmail.com]To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, such as weekly bird walks (continuing through May), please see our website at audubongv.org and “like” us on Facebook!]  
 

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That’s really big number. Owls are doing work of pest control Long island.




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