The Barn Owl is For Real

Barn Owl chick in a nest box in the park, with mom laying low in background

I’ve tried for several years to get a photo of an alleged barn owl in one of the barn owl boxes in the park, and never had any luck. I’d even come to disbelieve the anecdotes I heard of a breeding owl there.  But then I met Walter Karmazyn.  In his picture archives he had a small stack of images of owls-in-the-box from past years.  I am grateful to him for sharing this charming image with me and with the readers of this blog. 

The Cornell bird lab website has these “Cool Facts” about Barn Owls:

  • Barn Owls swallow their prey whole—skin, bones, and all. About twice a day, they cough up pellets instead of passing all that material through their digestive tracts. The pellets make a great record of what the owls have eaten, and scientists study them to learn more about the owls and the ecosystems they live in.
  • Up to 46 different races of the Barn Owl have been described worldwide. The North American form is the largest, weighing more than twice as much as the smallest race from the Galapagos Islands.
  • Barn Owl females are somewhat showier than males. She has a more reddish and more heavily spotted chest. The spots may indicate the quality of the female. Heavily spotted females get fewer parasitic flies and may be more resistant to parasites and diseases. The spots may also stimulate the male to help more at the nest. In an experiment where some females’ spots were removed, their mates fed their nestlings less often than for females whose spots were left alone.
  • The Barn Owl has excellent low-light vision, and can easily find prey at night by sight. But its ability to locate prey by sound alone is the best of any animal that has ever been tested. It can catch mice in complete darkness in the lab, or hidden by vegetation or snow out in the real world.
  • The oldest known North American Barn Owl lived in Ohio and was at least 15 years, 5 months old.



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