Vandalia Leader

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Barn owls return

Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 at 11:48 am

For two years, the local barn owls shunned the nest box we installed in a seldom-used machine shed. There is no predictor of when or if the owls will use or return to these devices, but I hadn’t given up hope. We had good fortune in 2013, ‘14, and ‘15 when the owls raised and we banded 21 young birds. For some reason not understood, 2016 and 17 were barren years for our location.
Starting in March each year, I occasionally look to see if there are any signs of nesting activity. This past April, as I did a check, a male owl flushed from the shed, which made me hopeful there was a female in the nesting box. A check on the first day of May revealed four very young owlets looking like small pink-skinned fuzz balls. Jeff Meshach, from the World Bird Sanctuary visited on the May 30, before the birds were capable of flying, and we banded the rapidly growing youngsters.
This species is proving that, with favorable habitat and a small amount of help, they can make a go of it.
For the most part, I don’t disturb them, which is key to them not abandoning the location, but I have discreetly checked a few times since banding and have seen the family start their evening hunting flights just before dark.
Every sighting and reported sighting gives me hope. Here’s hoping they return next year.
Mick Hayden
Vandalia, Mo.