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Barn Owls

Summary: Barn owls, also referred to as Common Barn owls, are one of the most widespread of all birds. These distinctive animals are nocturnal like other owls, but become active shortly before dusk.

Did you know that Barn owls are one of the most widespread of all birds?  These birds, also referred as Common Barn owls, are found on all continents, except Antarctica.

Barn owl habitations are encouraged by farmers because they have discovered that these owls are more effective than pesticides in reducing rodent populations.  Because Barn owls suppress rodent reproductions, they are considered one of the most economically beneficial wildlife. Amazingly, a nesting pair of Barn owls with six young can consume over 1,000 rodents during the nesting period.

Barn owls have a predominantly white color with long feathered legs. They usually grow to a height of 15 to 20 inches and make a loud rasping hiss in contrast to the hoots of other owls.

Barn owls are selective in their diet, seeking certain prey such as the meadow vole constitutes sixty percent or more of the owl's diet. But, they also consume gophers and small birds. Barn owls fly slowly over open ground, hover over the area where there is a potential prey, and swoop down to capture their prey.

Barn owls get their name for their tendency to nest high in barns and other man-made structures. However, in the wild they nest in cavities of rocky cliffs and hollow trees. In fact, unlike other birds, they really don't build nests, but just scrape together debris for the purpose of nesting. Their nest sites can be found up to sixty feet above the ground.

Barn Owls breed at any time during the year when food supply is abundant. Their mating period is usually dependent on an increase in the rodent population. The female owl is courted and guided to the nesting site by the male via his circling movements and his chattering and screeching.

Females lay a clutch of three to six white eggs, on any flat, enclosed areas. The clutch of eggs is laid over a two to three day period, and the incubation period starts after the first clutch is laid. Incubation lasts thirty to thirty-four days and the eggs are brooded for two weeks before they are hatched.

The parent Barn owls continue to provide for the owlets for about thirty-five to forty days until the young fledge. Fledging is the stage when the feathers, wings, and muscles are adequately developed for flight.

The young owls eat a lot and the male and female Barn owls must hunt throughout the night to feed their fast growing young. The young owls are taught by their parents to develop their hunting skills for about a week before they leave the nest and seek out territory of their own.

The cycle begins again when the Barn owl becomes sexually mature in less than one year of age. They normally attempt to breed at ten to twelve months, but most Barn owls manage to bread only once in their short lives. They frequently fall prey to predators such as opossum, raccoons, hawks, and eagles, before they reach two years of age. But, Barn owls living in captivity may live to age twenty, or more.

An interesting species, to be sure. The Barn owl is one of our many important birds because of its environmental benefits and beauty.

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