WANTED: Barn Owls

24 01 2011

Has anyone seen the common barn owl recently? If the name “Common Barn Owl” doesn’t register with you, it also goes by: White Owl, Silver Owl, Demon Owl, Ghost Owl, Death Owl, Night Owl, Rat Owl, Church Owl, Cave Owl, Stone Owl, Monkey-faced Owl, Hissing Owl, Hobgoblin or Hobby Owl, Dobby Owl, Golden Owl, Scritch Owl, Screech Owl, Straw Owl, Barnyard Owl and Delicate Owl, as stated by everyone’s favorite encyclodia, wikipedia. My own barn experiences have never included a barn owl and thus my knowledge of the elusive creature was minimal. However, several helpful articles changed all that.

Anna Brendle, for National Geographic news, states that the barn owl does not have the quint essential “hoot,” rather it communicates through raspy screeches and hissing. I figure the whole nocturnal thing would make that characteristic more appealing to barn owners seeking new residents, which is exactly what this species needs. Not to mention the fact that a barn owl’s resume includes pest control! According to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s Wildlife Division, a single family of two adults and six young can consume more than 1,000 rodents (including detested rats) during a typical three-month nesting period, which is turn means less mice in your pantry or winter clothes storage.
Brendle goes on to say that Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin all consider this animal to be threatened or endangered. The culprit: modernization and urbanization. The Morton buildings mentioned in my previous article devoid the Common Barn Owl of nesting options, forcing it to seek refuge elsewhere. Brendle writes, “In the Florida Everglades, pump houses dotted along the networks of canals that weave through sugarcane fields were long popular as nesting sites. But these pump houses are disappearing now that canal irrigation is automated.” This is an enormous problem considering that these creatures do not construct nests like other birds but are instead dependent on existing resources. A mother will incubate the egg as soon it is laid and those thereafter. Thus, the birth of offspring is staggered, as illustrated in this charming photo provided bt the Sky Hunters Environmental Education website:
If you live in McLean County (Illinois) there are people you can contact to help barn owl offspring like these! The necessary criteria include: wooden buildings like barns or cribs, 2-3 acres of grassland habitat within 1.25 miles of the structure, and a willingness to help! Some articles state that the best option is to put a nesting box on a pole in the middle of a grassland area. Please contact Anna Groves at 630.276.8679/agroves@iwu.edu or Given Harper at 309.556.3056/gharper@iwu.edu for more information about what you can do to help the Common Barn Owl help YOU!
For more information visit the quotes National Geographic article at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/10/1030_021030_BarnOwls.html

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