By Beatrice Potter
I have had two barn owl boxes equipped with cameras for a number of years now. This year I have been watching the progress of two owlets. When these hatch the female continues to brood them whilst the male hunts for all of them. When the owlets reach a certain stage the female also joins the hunt to satisfy the appetite of the growing owlets. These are left to their own devises during the day and the adult pair use the other box for roosting. This is why the Barn Owl Trust recommends the installation of two boxes where possible. The process is a lengthy one and once hatched at 48 hourly intervals the owlets take an average of 58 days to fledge at which point they start making short flights. The adults will continue feeding them for up to 84 days by which time they are roosting outside (branching) and will only go back to finding day time shelter once they have dispersed at around 98 days of age. All this is after hatching. Prior to this the female has spent 2 weeks being fed by the male before she has even laid one egg. These are laid every other day and the first egg hatches after 31 days. So the female can be in the box for as long as 74 days before she manages to leave and hunt again to satisfy the demands of all the owlets. From the start of her confinement to the owlets’ dispersal some 130 days later the adults need a constant supply of prey items of which 45% will be field voles. To remain in good condition a Barn Owl will need 3-4 prey items per night and after the hen bird leaves the young during the day these too will require the same amount of food per day. This why Barn Owls will sometimes be seen hunting during daylight hours.
These photos were taken late on Saturday 10th August during the gales… The owlets are fledged and were turning their backs to the elements. One turned and looked at me before both decided to return to the safety of the box.
Bepton used to be much more owl friendly in the days of the organic farm. Now it is less so and the constant use of sprays and mono culture do not help….