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Breeding Barn Owls

Thursday, May 7th 2020

Another resident of large bird boxes is the Barn Owl. Although nesting has been recorded in every month of the year, most pairs lay eggs only in the spring. Early laying females are generally those with the best food supply and first-year birds tend to breed a little later than older, more experienced birds.

It is almost impossible to tell if a Barn Owl is male or female just seeing it fly overhead. However, up close females often have darker brown feathers around the rim of the facial disc as well as darker bars on the tail and small black spots on the chest and underside of the wings. Males are generally lighter and a more pure white underneath. The one shown here is a female with dark flecks on her front and a dark fascial disc.

Barn Owls do not “build” a nest as such but lay their eggs directly onto the previous years’ nest debris – a compacted layer of owl pellets.  The female might also make a scrape in the debris and break up a few recent pellets creating a soft layer for egg laying. In this photograph the chicks are just hatching. Hopefully, there is a similar sight inside the Foxglove Barn Owl nest!

There are lots of interesting factsheets and videos about these stunning birds of prey on the Barn Owl Trust and the Hawk and Owl Trust Websites.

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