Submitted by Mick Hayden
Although for two years the barn owls haven’t used the nest box I put up on Rachel Kohl’s farm, I know they are still in the neighborhood because of several sightings by other people. Apparently they found a honeymoon suite they liked better than my offering. However, they had used it the prior three years and fledged 15 young. Many people have asked how the owls are doing. It’s difficult to give a good answer due to their elusiveness. Sightings of these raptors are uncommon because they are nocturnal and their population is small. If you see one in the daytime, it’s because something flushed or disturbed it. They don’t care much for daylight.
In July, Jeff Meshach, from the World Bird Sanctuary brought four more young owls, three females, and one male to add to the population. I kept them in the barn loft for four days, feeding and observing them, allowing them to settle and habituate to their new location. On the fourth evening, I opened a window and gave them their freedom. From that point on, they are self-dependent, relying on their instincts and survival skills. Hopefully, they will add to the population and its genetic diversity. As much as I’d like to further help them, I can’t and don’t. They are wild creatures and must stay that way.
I’m happy to be a continuing part of this project of the World Bird Sanctuary. It has been, and continues to be, a personally rewarding experience knowing that in a small way I’m helping with the re-introduction of this important species that was once more common in this area.
If you are interested, nest box plans are available from the Missouri Department of Conservation at nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/activities/woodworking/build-barn-owl-nest-box. Further information on the World Bird Sanctuary is available at worldbirdsanctuary.org.