Seeing owlets up close

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We recently had a special wildlife session for staff, inviting them to watch Jason Ball checking an owl nestbox. He knew of a Barn Owl family on the farm that we could visit, but he kept the location secret until we got there.

Click on a picture…

Jason, our Manager for Biodiversity and Alternative Energy, has a license to do the monitoring, because Barn Owls and their breeding sites are protected by law. He is also able to leg-band the birds with a metal ring from the British Trust for Ornithology which carries a unique number. This means we will know where the bird came from if we find it again – or if another ringer finds it somewhere else.

At a quiet barn we all gathered while Jason went up a ladder to the box. One by one he carefully put the chicks into his owl bag and brought them down. There were 4 fluffy owlets!

After being woken, to our amazement they soon started to doze off again as Jason worked to ring, measure and weigh each chick. We caught a rare glimpse of these owls up close.

The youngest two were fluffy and not as beautiful as an adult bird. They had long, hawkish faces and were covered in rather untidy down feathers, although you could see colourful plumage growing through the white down. The eldest were full size and almost rid of their down feathers, as their adult plumage developed. Now they were quickly growing their flight feathers, and had the handsome faces you’d expect of a proper Barn Owl.

Our 4 owlets were put back into the nestbox, safe and sound. To most of us, the birds looked smaller than we expected. Jason explained that the owls look much bigger in flight with outstretched wings. He said the chicks would probably each be eating 4 voles per night. The parents had to find food for the owlets, and for themselves. We hope for dry nights so that the parent owls have good weather for hunting.

See a video from our owl visit!
Visit our page about Barn Owls at Sheepdrove.

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