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23 July 2014

Four Barn Owl chicks near fledging

Here's what a healthy brood of four Barn Owl chicks looks like!

Two male and two female Barn Owl chicks are on the verge of fledging from this nest box in east Kerry. All the fluffy down is now gone, and they are now almost indistinguishable from adult birds.

This footage was taken on the early morning of 15th July and, by 18th, there was only one chick left at the box, so the video shows almost the last time these four will be together. Over the next week or two they will be fed by the adults in and around the site but, increasingly, away from the box itself. Soon they will learn to fend for themselves, and go their separate ways.

(You can click the arrow icon on bottom right to see the full resolution video).

Four Barn Owl chicks at a nest box in Co. Kerry (Filmed under licence from NPWS: M.O'Clery & J. Lusby).

19 July 2014

Film from a Kerry Barn Owl nest box

Here is some recent footage from a Barn Owl nest site in Co. Kerry. There are four chicks within, the oldest about 25 days, the youngest about 15 days old. The male and female are busy feeding them each night. Some things to look out for... 

The male delivers prey in the early part of the video, but note the paleness of the outer wing. He is easily distinguishable from the female who appears toward the end of the video - she has more barring on the secondaries (outer wing) and primaries (the longest wing feathers) as well as a more heavily barred tail. Not all pairs are so readily sexed, as there are some females which are only faintly barred and some slightly barred males, but this pair are particularly easy to distinguish.

Notice that both the female and male are already ringed with a small metal band on their legs. An adult male and an adult female were ringed at this site in 2012, and a different female was ringed in 2013.

The last clip shows the female outside the box, but the chorus of hisses and bill snaps is from the chicks, who either heard or saw something which alarmed them, perhaps even the female arriving at the nest.

Hunting seems to be good. One Bank Vole is offered to a chick, but it turns out it already has one. In another part of the clip, you can see the chick eat one item, while another lies uneaten at its feet. This surplus is often consumed by the chicks during the following day.

(You can hit the arrow icon in the corner of the video for a full screen view)

Barn Owl nest camera, Co. Kerry (Video: M.O'Clery, filmed under licence from NPWS).

And here's the same box, about a week later...

Barn Owl nest camera, Co. Kerry (Video: M.O'Clery, filmed under licence from NPWS).

11 July 2014

Barn Owl ringing shows value of nest boxes

As the ringing of Barn Owls gets underway in Duhallow this season, the true value of nest boxes is becoming ever more apparent, both in Duhallow and beyond. In the post below, you can see the storm-damaged cottage near Newmarket, which was a nest site for Barn Owls for many years. From a ringed adult female at this site, we have discovered that she (and possibly her male partner) have relocated to a modern barn 2 km away in which one of our nest boxes was placed three years ago. The barn would have otherwise been unsuitable for nesting Barn Owls, but now, to the delight of all those involved with the nest box scheme, the Barn Owl pair have four well grown chicks in the nest box. 

Four Barn Owl chicks from the nest box near Newmarket. The owls moved in some time after February 2014. Pictured holding the owls, Brin McDonnell of the Duhallow Birdwatching Club, and Elsa Corkery, UCC (M.O'Clery).

At another site near Kanturk, when a tree nest was destroyed by storms in 2013, a nest box was put in place in the shattered tree trunk. One bird was present last summer, but this year a pair was again present, and one chick has been successfully reared in the nest box. In both these cases, we would have lost the Barn Owl nest sites if it weren't for the nest boxes. Incentive indeed to keep up the hard work in locating new suitable sites for boxes, making, installing and monitoring them.

The Barn Owl nest box wedged into the shattered trunk of the tree near Kanturk. Thankfully, Barn Owls have moved back in and nested successfully in the box this year, with one chick, below. (M.O'Clery).

John Lusby (BirdWatch Ireland), Dario-Fernandez-Bellon (UCC) and Ilsa Corkery (UCC) retrieving the Barn Owl chick for weighing, measuring and ringing (M.O'Clery).

The Barn Owl chick (M.O'Clery).

The same is now happening in Co. Kerry where several sites would now be lost were it not for careful placement of nest boxes.