Barn owls mate for life and once they have located and decided on a nesting site that is suitable to them, they will return to the same spot year after year to have their young. When they are in the wild, they will seek out tree cavities or crevices in rock formations, but they are just as comfortable in taking advantage of some of the man-made structures that they run across as well.
When it comes time for the barn owl nesting season you may see and hear them roosting in the backyard or in a nearby park as they have adapted very well to being close to humans in their habits of nesting and raising a family.
Most noted for keeping the rodent population under control, it is estimated that the average barn owl will consume around 1,500 rodents per year. When the young owls begin to feed, they can put away up to five rodents per day.
The numbers of owls have increased over the past several years, in large part due to people being aware of their presence, and the placing of owl boxes in strategic, but protected places where the owls can roost, mate, and feel safe.
Barn owls generally start looking for a mate in November, and they begin mating in late December or in early January. The secret to attracting the owls to the nesting boxes is the proper placement of the boxes. It is optimal to pick a site that is around some trees, as the owls feel that this gives them some protection. Then the boxes should be place at a height of at least 12 feet off of the ground and at least 15 feet away from any human activity.
The box ideally should look over a clearing, where also the trees will provide shade on a daily basis from the intensity of the sun. The design of the box is important as well, as if it is too small it won’t accommodate the owls and the family that is about to come along.
Barn owls will generally lay from 8 to 12 eggs, and if the box is too small, then some of the chicks won’t have enough room and they may be forced out of the box.
Sometimes people will find chicks that are on the ground after having fallen from the nest. If they are uninjured, you can attempt to put them back into the nest. It is a myth that you should never touch animals because if you touch them, the mother will reject them. Consequently, chicks that are not injured can be returned to the original nest if you can find it.
Barn owls can be as long as 20 inches and have a wingspan of almost 4 feet. Their wings are serrated in a similar manner as a comb is. This little trick allows them to attack an enemy silently.
You can look out for the owls during the barn owl nesting season. Barn owls are not the owls that you hear hooting, but those are probably the great horned or screech owl. Barn owls make a very distinctive and scary sounding screech and hiss.