Barn owl population soaring this spring on Nantucket
Article Date: 2008-06-18 Source: http://www.nantucketindependent.com
By Peter B. Brace
Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S.A. - Hatching from eggs, down-covered and wobbling around on unsteady legs are a
veritable population explosion of new barn owls in owl boxes situated around the north side of the island this spring.
Barn owls, not nearly as abundant on Nantucket as gulls, crows or even
red-tailed hawks, took a beating during the frigid winters of 2002 through 2005, unable to keep warm enough to make it to springtime to breed.
But this year, five nesting pairs could produce as many as 22 new barn owls,
according to Dr. Bob Kennedy, Director of Natural Science at the Maria Mitchell
"Last year, we had two nesting pairs," said Kennedy. "This year, we have at least five and they're fledging young right now. Three of the boxes that we've checked, two of them had three each in them and one has five young, and another one has fledged [their young] already and they're already on their second brood."
Nantucket's barn owl resurgence is likely due partially to the efforts of
Kennedy, island bird expert Edith Andrews, Granger Frost, who put up barn owl
boxes on his property at 80 Madaket Road and landscaper Ted Godfrey, who
encouraged his clients to do the same.
The boxes vary in style and size, but are generally two feet by two feet by
three feet and are placed on a pole about six to 10 feet off the ground. Each
box has a small landing-launching platform on its face with an opening on it
leading down a short baffle or hallway into a main chamber where eggs are laid
without nesting materials. The boxes are designed to protect the owls from the
elements while they raise their young. Barn owls, native to Nantucket, are a
Species of Special Concern in Massachusetts. They gener-ally begin nesting in
late April and have been known to be raising young as late as October. They
usually lay five or six eggs and sometimes will raise two broods in one season.
Luckily for the formerly declining island population, that is happening this
"It's growing exponentially," said Kennedy, of Nantucket's barn owl population. "They're just going to repopulate the island very quickly. We're getting birds moving in from off island as well as young recruiting."
While at least 35 barn owl boxes exist on the island, Kennedy said that this
year's bumper crop is growing in boxes on the north side of Nantucket with one
pair off Eel Point Road and others near Polpis Road. Kennedy said that anyone
who knows the locations of these boxes and wants to see the owls should do so as quietly as possible just as it gets dark.
"I think that it is very important that if people see the nest boxes that people not disturb them because if the birds are flushed, then the crows will destroy them," said Kennedy. "If the young fledge early, they would easily be prey to crows; curiosity could end up causing the birds to be killed."
Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from http://www.nantucketindependent.com and placed here for comment.
OwlPages.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any information in this article, and does not necessarily agree with the author's opinions.
2008-09-10 - Fourteen barn owl offspring and counting by Peter B. Brace - Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
2004-07-16 - Barn owls nearing extinction by Jason Graziadei - Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
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On 2010-10-27, jessica wrote: "there are no comments on this page! i just felt so bad for the cute yet unpopular little owls, and had to post! wish me luck with my biology presentation! :)"
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