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15 August 2013

Late Barn Owl chicks raise hopes

The nest site in the wall cavity, centre of picture (Photo: M.O'Clery).

The discovery of at least two very late Barn Owl chicks at a site in Co. Kerry has raised hopes that other pairs which have seemingly given up on breeding for this year might yet be attempting to nest.

Two very young chicks were heard a few days ago at the nest site in a cavity in a wall (centre of photo), and estimated to be only 10 to 15 days old. This would mean that they might not be able to fly until early October, and might not leave the nest until late October. This is a great gamble for the adult birds. If the autumn is wet and stormy, they will be unable to provide food for the growing chicks, but if it remains mild and largely dry, they might just manage to raise the young successfully. 

The pair present at this site were displaying vigorously all through spring (see, eg, this post HERE), but by late June and early July, they were largely silent, there were no sounds of chicks, and the breeding attempt seemed to have fizzled out for the year. Perhaps the  exceptional weather in July allowed them to hunt well enough to try again.

There are several Barn Owl sites in Duhallow at which the adults have seemingly given up on breeding for this season so we will make a point of returning to each of those again for a careful check to make sure we detect any more which might be breeding this late. 

The appearance of chicks late in the year is not without precedent in Ireland and well developed young have been found at a nest in Wexford in December, though as ever, the weather will play the most important role in the outcome of any late nests.