Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Barn Owls

 Barn Owls have been located just west of downtown Bastrop in an old two story house. The owner believes they have been there for several years. These photographs were taken just prior to dusk and do not approach anything close to National Geographic quality.

Several members of the Bastrop County Audubon Society have observed these birds since August. Having been able to photograph one adult early in September, I drug my family out the following evening and found three more out. The second photograph is of two on the house. The third was in the pecan near the house. Incidentally, Barn Owls hiss and wheeze when calling. They do not hoot as other owls do.

These are nocturnal and hunt rats and mice. While hunting it relies on sound as well as sight. Its eyes are not large for a nocturnal hunter. Yet, the facial feathers and tufts are arranged in such a way as to funnel sound to their ears. The ear canals are directed differently which is thought to assist the owl in triangulating the source of the prey.

Barn Owls are one of the most widespread species of owls. They occupy every continent except Antarctica and the major islands of the Pacific. In The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, however, there is a warning as to the disappearance of Barn Owls from parts of the United States owing to several recent developments. One is the regeneration of forests in the Northeast, conversion of land to row crops in the Midwest, and to the clearing of old buildings and barns elsewhere. Providing Owl boxes and platforms may be the best way to counteract this.

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