Fourteen barn owl offspring and counting
Article Date: 2008-09-10 Source: http://www.nantucketindependent.com
By Peter B. Brace
Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S.A. - For barn owls, Nantucket is becoming the place to catch rodents at night,
hang out with their dates in a small box high up on a pole and raise chicks.
This summer, 36 barn owl boxes sprinkled around the island on private properties produced 14 chicks and counting, reported Maria Mitchell Association
ornithological intern Julie Arntzen on Monday afternoon, during her second round
of checking the boxes this summer with Maria Mitchell Director of Science Bob
"It was great," said Arntzen of the Barn Owl Class of 2008. "It was a very
successful year. A couple of years ago, we were down to one barn owl and we
pretty much lost all the owls, but they're coming back strong, so we're having
another healthy group."
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
that Arntzen spoke of, unable to keep warm enough to make it to springtime to
On Monday, while checking the barn owl boxes after getting permission from
property owners, Arntzen and Kennedy banded the young that they could find and
that were old enough to wear the bands.
Barn owls, native to Nantucket and also known as the Monkey-faced owl, are a
Species of Special Concern in Massachusetts that generally 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, which is
what Arntzen and Kennedy are also checking for in this second visit to the
boxes. Of the boxes they checked, they found seven nesting pairs that produced
14 chicks in their first brood of the season with two of those pairs now raising
their second broods. One of these two nests had four eggs in them and the other,
chicks too young to be banded, said Arntzen.
Later this week, this pair of owl angels will have a more definitive census on
Nantucket's barn owl populations, but from their perspective, it looks good
heading into the fall and winter seasons.
"Especially if we have a calm winter," said Arntzen. "If they get a lot of snow
and ice it won't bode well for them. They can't hunt through the snow and ice
because this is the northern most extent of their range."
And their wooden, uninsulated boxes are only designed to protect the owls from
the elements while they raise their young. They vary in style and size and are
generally two feet by two feet by three feet, perched on a pole about six to ten
feet off the ground. The boxes have a small landing/launching platform on their
faces with an opening leading down a short baffle or hallway into a main chamber
where eggs are laid without nesting materials.
In June when Kennedy and Arntzen had discovered five of this year's seven
nesting pairs and Kennedy predicted there could be as many as 22 chicks raised
this season, he offered this crucial advice to would-be barn owl watchers:
"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. 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.
2008-06-18 - Barn owl population soaring this spring on Nantucket 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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