R. Bruce Horsfall
La. strix, strigis owl
La. forma form, shape,
Gr. tuto owl
La. albus white
Eighteen inches long, up to four foot wing span. Upperparts a
mixture of amber and mottled gray finely speckled with black and white.
Heart-shaped facial disks; white underparts. White mottled with black,
sometimes barred tail. Small black eyes. Long wings and long feathered
Resident of southern portions of the continent from British Columbia
and Ontario to Mexico. In the East as far north as Massachusetts.
Barn owls or their cousins with slight changes in appearance can be
found through out most parts of the world in temperate and tropical
regions. Barn Owls are actually more widespread than the
reported sightings in the survey map.
While not abundant in the North, Barn Owl populations are declining
further due to loss of habitat, nesting sites and prey species.
Accumulates loosely piled bones in tree hollows, deserted buildings and
barns, boat wrecks on the coast, church towers, holes in banks, even holes
in the open prairies. Sometimes claims old crows' nests.
A pair of Barn Owls lived for years on one of the towers of the
Lays five to eleven white eggs often found at varying
stages of incubation. About a month of incubation and young leave the
nest after about another two months. Eats mice, rats and other
mammals, insects, frogs, some birds, rarely poultry.
In Florida, farmers mount Barn Owl nest boxes as rats
cause nearly $30 million damage every year to sugar cane crops. One pair
of Barn Owls and their offspring may catch and consume as many as 3,000
rats per year.
Conceals itself so well during the day and so silent at night, that
neighbors may be totally unaware of its presence. When they are disturbed
in their nest they click their bills and hiss. Occasionally a startling
scream and quivering cry.
Considered unlucky in the folklore and
superstitions of many cultures, abhorred by the Romans. The Barn Owl
represented the letter "M" in Egyptian hieroglyphs and mummified remains
have been discovered.
Egyptian Relief, 1,300 BC
The Barn Owl nest box is unusual. One design has a 10" by 18" floor, is
16" tall, and has a 6" by 6" opening near the floor. It should be mounted at
least 12' high in a barn, tree, or tower. There are many varied designs
which one can find through an internet search.
Louis Agassiz Fuertes