What a hoot! Barn owls in apartments
Article Date: 2007-03-02 Source: http://www.hindu.com
By Divya Gandhi
Bangalore, Karnataka, India - Barn owls, once discreet inhabitants of old tree hollows and rock crevices on the outskirts of Bangalore, seem to have decided to move into the city. And Bangalore's bird watchers, earlier worried about the owls' diminishing habitat, are delighted at their thriving population.
It is not uncommon to catch a glimpse of the large white owl fly silently past
you in the evening. But more surprisingly, according to birdwatcher groups in
Bangalore, barn owls have developed a liking for large apartment complexes for
roosting and nesting.
"Barn owls have always lived in the peripheries of the city. But as the city has
engulfed its surroundings, and old avenue trees have been felled — on Mysore
Road and Yelahanka for instance — barn owls have adapted themselves to the
changing urban ecology, and found space in the tall buildings that have
mushroomed in the city," says S. Subramanya, a scientist at the University of
Agricultural Sciences. He is in fact convinced that almost every high rise has a
resident pair of barn owls. There is also a relative advantage for barn owls in
apartment complexes — rats are in plenty.
Like a proud parent, Dr. Subramanya speaks of a pair of barn owls that lived,
nested and bred in his ninth floor apartment in south Bangalore recently. "I
lost sleep over their loud screeches, territorial fights and the noisy chicks
that had to be fed four times a night!"
A victim of superstition:
Dr. Subramanya might be delighted over this kind of reverse migration. But other
residents, he says, need more convincing. "People are not always happy about
barn owls living in their complexes. There are myths too about barn owls being
the harbingers of ill-luck or death. This should change."
Barn owls are often victims of superstition, and frequently killed or injured.
Saleem Hameed, who works with a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre at
Bannerghatta, says he attends to as many as 30-40 such cases every season.
An informal bird watchers' club has now formed a Barn Owl Conservation Group to
educate residents about the bird.
"We want to make people aware of the ecological role of barn owls. They can, for
instance, be used as biological control for rodents, in place of the poison
baits used by companies for pest control," says Dr. Subramanya.
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2007-11-28 - Out-of-the-box thinking to protect owls by Divya Gandhi - Bangalore, Karnataka, India
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