Silicon Valley Nature Cam

 

 

Happening Now:

Our bonded pair of barn owls have returned to their owl house for the 2016 season.

There are 5 owlets!

Watch them live here:

Click Here To Watch
Barn Owls Live Now

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barn Owls

Barn Owl pairs are life-long mates, and they typically have one brood of young per year, possibly a second, and in rare cases, a third. We are lucky to have a bonded barn owl pair who return annually to our specially-built owl house. Nesting usually begins toward the end of the calendar year, and eggs are laid toward the end of January or the beginning of February. Barn owls usually lay 5 to 6 eggs, although up to 12 eggs have been recorded, and the incubation period is 31-32 days. After the first egg is laid, each additional egg is laid 2-3 days after the previous egg. The egg will hatch 31-32 days after it was laid, in the order it was laid. By the time the last egg is hatched, there will be a significant size difference between the first-born and last-born.

Diet and Feeding

The Barn Owl feeds primarily on small animals, particularly rodents like mice, rats, gophers and occasionally rabbits and birds. We have an abundance of gophers in our area, so this is likely the food you'll see them eating, in addition to other rodents.

gopher
Gopher

On average, a Barn Owl eats 3 small mammals per night. That's 1086 rodents per owl for one year. Once there is a family to support, this number increases to 25 rodents per night! The male Barn Owl is responsible for catching enough food a night to support himself (3 mammals), his mate (2 mammals), and five owlets (4 mammals each). As you can see, the rapid reproductive cycle of rabbits and rodents is important to the owl's survival, as without the abundance of food, the owl's would become extinct. In return, the owl helps keep the population of these animals in balance. If you have a rodent problem, consider installing an owl box instead of using poisons! Keep in mind that poisoning rodents can poison birds of prey, if the poisoned rodent is consumed by the bird.

Owls swallow their prey whole, and because they cannot digest fur or bones, they regurgitate these items in the form of a pellet. Owl pellets are masses of undigested bone, bills, claws, teeth, skulls, fur and feathers of their prey animals. You can learn a lot about an owl's diet by doing an owl pellet dissection.

owl pellets
Owl pellets in their natural environment and on paper

To the left are examples of Owl Pellets, photographed in both their natural environment and then placed on paper for better visibility. Even the most fragile bones are often preserved unbroken inside the pellets. Examining the contents of owl pellets can be a fun and investigatory process into the owl food chain.

The Owl House

Barn Owls do not build nests in trees. They look for a cavity or ledge that meets their size requirements along with land which they can hunt. They can often be found in abandoned man-made structures, like barns. Barn Owls are declining in some areas due to habitat loss.

In an effort to control our ever-growing gopher population, we built an owl house to invite the Barn Owls to take up residence. The owl house sits up on a post 14-feet high, nestled between an Eucalyptus and Oak tree.

owl house
Owl house in front of Eucalyptus tree

The owl house has infrared (IR) lighting and two cameras to capture every minute regardless of time of day. Although the evening views appear bright and clear, the IR lights are completely invisible to the owls, and the house is pitch-black inside, so there is absolutely no interference with their natural process.

The camera microphone is very sensitive. In addition to hearing the owls, you can hear nearby sounds: turkeys, coyotes, many varieties of birds, planes, wind, rain, and even the "hoo hoo" of a Great Horned Owl.