Owlivia and Barnaby have a family of five this year which we’ve named after the historic Portuguese dairy farmers who inhabited Frank Valley in the early 1900’s. Ocean Riders’ Golden Gate Dairy Stables boards horses and provides programs that offer opportunities to learn about the cycles of life and the importance of caring for the local watershed which we are so fortunate to share. Please visit our Programs Page to learn more about what we do. If you like what we do, please visit our Fundraising Page to see how you can help support our mission and expand our programs to under resourced communities.
The two frames below are live video feeds, the first from the roof of our Barn Owl nesting box from a night vision camera pointing straight down and the second from the wall next to the box to view the activities in the rafters.
Meet Owlivia and Barnaby who settled in for home making in their clean nest box on January 22, and have produced this year’s brood: Lopes, Dias, Nunes, Santos, and Brazil. Stay tuned for updates as we post highlights of the family’s progress.
The YouTube videos below are a historical record of last year’s owl family showing highlights of events from mating to fledging.
BARN OWLS ~ FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do Barn Owls Mate For Life?
Barn Owls are usually monogamous and stay together for life. If one of the pair dies, the other will find a new mate. There have been reports of polygamy, with pairs raising second broods during a given year with a different mate. There is even one report of polygyny, with two females and one male nesting and raising young together in one nest box.
How Old Are They When They Have Their First Nest/Nestlings?
Barn Owls usually start breeding at about a year old.
Do Both Parents Sit On The Nest?
No, just the female. She has a featherless area on her abdomen called a “brood patch” which is designed to keep the eggs warm. This patch has lots of blood vessels just beneath the skin that transfer heat to the eggs. Incubation begins after the first egg is laid and the female only rarely leaves the nest during this time, and only for brief periods.
Doesn’t The Female Get Hungry While She Sits On The Nest All Day And Night?
The male delivers prey to the female during the time she is incubating the eggs and brooding the young chicks. In many cases the male will bring excess prey that is stored in the nest for later consumption.
What Do Barn Owls Eat?
Barn Owls eat mostly small mammals, particularly rats, mice, voles, lemmings, and other rodents; also shrews, bats, and rabbits. Most of the prey they eat are active at night, so squirrels and chipmunks are relatively safe from Barn Owls. They occasionally eat birds such as starlings, blackbirds, and meadowlarks. Amphibians, reptiles, fish, insects, scorpions, and crayfish are rarely taken. Nesting Barn Owls sometimes store dozens of prey items at the nest site while they are incubating to feed the young once they hatch. It has not been determined whether Barn Owls are specialist or opportunistic predators. Though the owls appear to be specialized in hunting small mammals, this actually may only reflect the fact that these prey items are what the owls are most likely to encounter in their nocturnal habitat.
Do They Only Hunt At Night?
Barn Owls hunt primarily at night, beginning about one hour after sunset and ending about one hour before sunrise. They occasionally hunt during the day.
Do They Eat The Bones Too? Why Do They Eat The Bones?
Owls typically swallow small prey whole, bones and all. Bones are broken down in the stomach to provide important nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus. Any indigestible parts of prey such as fur and undigested bones are regurgitated as a pellet. Barn Owls usually cough up pellets once or twice a day.
The Owl Just Threw Up. Is It Sick?
You probably observed it regurgitating or “casting” a pellet. When a prey item is swallowed whole, indigestible parts of prey, such as fur, bone, and tough insect parts, will form a pellet in a muscular area of the stomach called the gizzard. In North America, Barn Owls have been found to produce one to two pellets per day on average. The minimum interval between eating and casting is about 6.5 hours, but repeated small meals at intervals of less than 6.5 hours inhibit pellet regurgitation and result in large pellets containing remains of many meals. Pellet regurgitation appears to be stimulated by the sight of a potential meal.
How Do They Get Water?
Barn Owls get most of the water that they need from eating their prey. They have almost never been observed drinking water in the wild.
Do Barn Owls Sleep?
Yes. When asleep they will close their eyes.
Do Barn Owls Have A Sense Of Smell?
Traditionally, scientists assumed that most birds have a poor sense of smell because the area of a bird’s brain involved in smell is relatively small compared with the area found in mammals. However, recent research reveals that some species of birds have a high number of active genes that are associated with smell. Scientists have also discovered that some species of birds can tell each other apart by smell. So, though we don’t have all the details, and no specific studies have been conducted on Barn Owls, they probably do have some ability to smell.