The Barn Owls at Lorton Meadows - Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ has been written to hopefully answer any questions you have about the Barn Owls at Lorton Meadows. We hope we've covered everything. If we haven't, let us know by sending us a comment on the webcam page.   To go back to the main Barn Owl Webcam page click here

QUESTION

ANSWER

Have you given the adult Barn Owls names? Yes. Brenda is the adult female and Bob is the adult male.
How can I tell which is which? Adult barn owls are very difficult to tell apart. The female is usually larger than the male and should be slightly darker coloured around the face. Adults are approx. 25cm tall (head to feet) and 33-35cm from top of head to tip of tail.
Why are they rubbing faces? During courtship the pair will mutually preen each other and rub cheeks, as well as making soft chittering noises and hissing.
What is all that stuff on the floor? They are pellets. The barn owls regurgitate the bits of their meals that they can't digest (bones, fur, etc) into a pellet about the size of mans thumb. The sticks came from jackdaws (not the barn owls), who used the nestbox in a previous year.
Why are they eating the pellets?

The female is actually "shredding" the pellets to make a nice soft base for the eggs. The eggs are laid onto whatever surface is available (ie wood, loft insulation, stone) dependant on the nest site.

How many eggs will they have? and how long until they hatch? Barn owls usually lay 5 to 6 eggs. The female starts incubating the eggs as soon as the first egg is laid, and lays an egg every 2-3 days.The eggs hatch after 31-32 days incubation, and will hatch in the order they were laid (ie 2-3 day intervals).
The female seems to be leaving the
egg(s) , is this normal?
The female will normally incubate the eggs as soon as they are laid. However, if she is underweight and/or suffering extreme food shortage then she might abandon the eggs.
How long will the female sit on the eggs/chicks? The female will continue sitting on the young chicks until the eldest is about 3 weeks old. That means she will have been sitting on the nest for a total of nine weeks, and will have relied on her mate for food during all this time.
How many chicks will survive?

The number of chicks that survive is directly related to the amount of prey their parents can catch. Things that can effect this are quality of the habitat, how much prey there is in the area, the weather and how experienced the individual parents are.

When will the chicks leave the nest? Chicks usually start flying at 9-10 weeks and will start to leave the nest for good when they are about 11-12 weeks. All will probably be gone by 14 wks.
What do they eat? Voles, mice and shrews are the most popular prey and are usually swallowed whole. In the UK amphibians, reptiles, insects, birds, bats, rabbits and carrion are not usually eaten by barn owls and earth worms are not eaten at all.
Where is the webcam at Lorton Meadows? The camera is attached to a barn owl nest box, situated in an old converted barn which is now our visitor centre at Lorton Meadows Nature Reserve.
Where is Lorton Meadows? You can find directions and further information about this beautiful nature reserve by clicking on Lorton Meadows Reserve & Wildlife Centre.
How long have the Barn Owls been nesting at Lorton Meadows? This is the second year. In 2004 we refurbished an old barn at Lorton Meadows. We built a gable end entrance and installed a nest box & camera. Several barn owls have used the box as a roost, and the male barn owl (Bob) took up residence around October 2008. On 14 March 2010 he was joined by a female (Brenda) and they raised 3 healthy chicks.
I've seen them mating a lot. Why? As time goes on the male will start bringing the female food and she will spend less and less time hunting. Mating usually occurs each time the male brings the female food prior to egg laying.
Why have you set this webcam up? The nest box and camera, set up by Jason Fathers of Wildlife Windows are part of a larger project based on the reserve to watch nesting birds at Lorton Meadows.
Are the Barn Owls affected by the weather? Yes. It's easier for the barn owls to catch small mammals in fair weather, so we are hoping for good weather for the next couple of months! Barn owl feathers are not very waterproof - so they stuggle to catch prey in bad weather.
When do they hunt? Dusk and dawn are the main times for hunting, although they sometimes hunt during the day or at night. It really depends on the individual barn owl.
Will Barn Owls come back to the same nestbox year after year? Yes - we hope they will. Once they have a territory, Barn Owls tend to use the same nest site year after year.
Where else will Barn Owls nest?

Nests can be in tree hollows, rock crevices, derelict buildings, barns and nestboxes.

How many Barn Owls are in the UK? There are estimated to be 4,000 pairs of barn owls in the UK
What noises do Barn Owls make? They hiss & shriek. During courtship they also make soft chittering noises as well as hissing. They don't hoot (that's Tawny Owls).
How can I find out about nestbox cameras? Please contact our nestbox camera supplier Jason Fathers at Wildlife Windows Ltd telephone 01202 461969
I believe we may have a Barn Owl nest in a structure we are about to demolish. All birds, their nests and eggs are protected by law:
In UK by WACA (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) and in Europe as a whole by The EU Birds Directive (1979). Some birds on Schedule 1 of WACA carry very heavy penalties for disturbance etc.
  Barn Owl information supplied by the Barn Owl Trust website, Sam Dallimore, warden at Lorton Meadows Reserve and our nestbox specialist Jason Fathers at Wildlife Windows Ltd

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