Thanks to Mick Hayden, his family, and the support of neighbors living around Rachel Kohl’s residence on Audrain County Road 556, the nearly endangered barn owl officially made Vandalia its newest home this past week.
Four full size barn owls were delivered to Kohl’s property on Tuesday, May 15 by Jeff Meshach, Director of World Wildlife Sanctuary in Village Park, Mo. near St. Louis. Three of the Owls hatched in early 2011 with the fourth hatching in September.
Hayden first learned about the release program in a rural magazine article in 2010. Two years later, the wood barn he restored is one of seven being used to release a breed of owls with what many consider to have the best eyesight and hearing in the world.
“It’s been extremely interesting cooperating with Jeff on this,” said Hayden, who has an un-dergraduate degree in wildlife studies. “And hopefully we’ll be able to reestablish more rather uncommon birds up in our area.”
Meshach said the location offers a great habitat for the barn owls, which are a grassland species.
He said they like areas where the grass isn’t too thick for them to locate rodents and pounce on them for food.
He noted they also like areas with less woods and love alfalfa grass areas that support small rodents.
While many wooden barns in the Northeast Missouri area are falling down, Hayden’s restored barn on Kohl’s property offers a perfect setting for the Owls.
“It has a great loft in it,” Meshach said.
“It is an enclosed loft that is in or near a great habitat.”
From Tuesday, May 15 to Tuesday, May 22, Hayden had the responsibility of feeding a supply of frozen mice to the owls.
They required three to four mice being thawed and fed to each owl each day.
He said he would put them in four piles on a cleared part of the loft each night.
“I have to admit, I’ve never fed mice before; that’s a first time,” Hayden commented.
Late Tuesday night, Hayden uncovered a port in the barn to allow the owls an opportunity to leave and return as they please.
Hayden has also put a nesting box on the farm, giving one nesting box to a farmer with alfalfa on his property, and has provided some information to those living in the immediate area with an offer of hosting a nesting box on their property as well.
“They will have a potential of having a hard time finding food for a long time,” Meshach said. “They know (the barn) is a place that produces food…”
Meshach said they currently do not track the owls as they did when the now “species of special concern” was once considered an “endangered species.”
He said he feels the barn owls are still endangered noting the fact that the World Wildlife Sanctuary has only treated two barn owls for injuries at the facility in 27 years.