Adventures with Owls: Part II

Two weeks ago, I stumbled upon an owl nest in an old deer stand on our property.

The Barn owl nest on February 9, 2015. 5 eggs rested in the corner surrounded by 6 dead mice.

I left the area undisturbed since the discovery of the eggs, but today I returned to check on them. As I began my climb up the ladder, not one, but two Barn owls flew out of the open doorway; a great sign. They landed in a tree nearby and watched me closely as I continued upwards.

Never having seen wild owls up close in the daylight, I was fascinated. They are incredibly cool looking creatures and watch you with a very inquisitive expression. However, I imagine what looked like inquisitiveness to me was probably worry to them. They tilted their heads as I continued my ascent.

Under their intense gaze, I wondered how many times in the past I must have walked underneath owls hidden in the treetops as I made my way through the darkness to a hunting spot…

Reaching the top, I poked my head through the doorway of the stand and was happy to see the eggs were all safe and in tact. But to my surprise, there had been an addition to the family over the past two weeks. Now, there are a total of 7 eggs instead of 5.

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What used to be 5 eggs and 6 dead mice are now 7 eggs and bedding of fur.

A New Adventure

Now that I know my presence the first time around didn’t cause any detriment to the process, I’ve decided to place a trail camera inside the stand. I hope to capture the rest of the amazing activity taking place inside.

In the mean time, I decided to do a little bit of research for my future adventures with owls. After some light reading online, I found out a few fun facts about Barn owls that shed some light on the current situation…

  • Owls do not construct nests, but instead are opportunistic nesters, using ready-made sites like the abandoned nests of other birds.  Barn owls are notorious for utilizing man-made structures like barns and outbuildings. But in our case, an old deer stand seems to have met their needs quite well.
  • Barn owls usually lay 5 to 6 eggs. The female will begin incubation as soon as the first egg is laid. She then lays an egg every 2-3 days.  The eggs hatch after 31-32 days incubation, and will hatch in the order they were laid.  This helps explain the additional eggs I found today.
  • Barn owls regurgitate the bits of their prey they can’t digest, like bones or fur, into a pellet roughly the size of a person’s thumb. But during the nesting period, the females are able to use those pellets as a helpful resource.  She will actually begin shredding the pellets to make a soft base for the eggs.  After learning this, I was able to easily deduce where all the mice in the first picture ended up: as a nice, cozy mattress for the eggs, which can be seen in the second picture.

More updates to come, so stay tuned!



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