Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘barn owl’

Barn Owls in Monmouth County

Thursday, October 12th, 2023

by: Larissa Smith, CWF Senior Biologist

photo by Herb Houghton

Barn Owls (Tyto alba) are one of the most widespread avian species in the world. Despite this impressive distribution, their numbers have been decreasing in parts of their range, and New Jersey is no exception. The barn owl population in New Jersey is in decline due to habitat loss associated with urban sprawl and development of former agricultural lands. Little is known about the Barn Owl population in central New Jersey. Through a grant from the Monmouth Audubon Society, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is partnering with Monmouth County Park System and the New Jersey State Park to construct, install and monitor three barn owl boxes. By providing suitable nest site opportunities we can potentially boost the barn owl population locally within Monmouth County as well as regionally as fledglings disperse to find their own nesting areas.

The first step of the project has been completed. CWF biologist Christine Healy and her Father Jim Healy have constructed three nest boxes that are ready for installation.

Would you like to learn more about the elusive Barn Owl, support the CWF Barn Owl Project and have a fun family night? Join us at Howls for Owls, at the Screamin’ Hill Brewing.

We Hope to see you there. This outdoor event will be cancelled for bad weather, so please stay updated on our website.

Barn Owl Box Housekeeping

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

by MacKenzie Hall, Private Lands Biologist

Barn Own Box Housekeeping

A very productive nest box! Photo by Pat Hilton

I read that a barn owl was once seen delivering 16 mice, 3 gophers, a rat, and a squirrel to a nest in just half an hour.  And after scooping out the contents of a barn owl nest box last Friday, I’m a believer.

The nest box went up as a side-project two years ago, when I was contacted by Rick Wiltraut from the Pennsylvania DCNR.  Rick works with private landowners in PA on barn owl projects and wanted to reach across the river into northern NJ.  The owls are considered a Special Concern species in NJ, with populations trending downward across the region.  The Barn Owl Research Foundation (based in TX) has been monitoring many successful barn owl nest boxes down in Salem & Cumberland Cos for 30 years, but we’re not aware of any such efforts in the farmlands of north Jersey.  So we picked a few farms with good barn owl potential.  

Pat Hilton is always up for expanding her Ark, so her rolling farm in Readington was one that we chose.  We were all ecstatic when a nesting pair moved right in and reared 3 chicks in 2011.   In 2012, the owls got an earlier start (Pat discovered the first hatchlings on Earth Day – nice!).  Before we got a chance to clean out the nest box, the owls were back in business, incubating a second clutch by mid-July!

I spent last Friday catching up on some of the season’s odds & ends, and finally got over to Pat’s farm to clean out that nest box.  Holy puke balls, batgirl!  My little gardening spade and grocery bag were measly equipment for this job.  It took about 15 minutes to chisel through and remove the compacted pellets (regurgitated “undigestibles”) and droppings – two bags worth.  Almost every furry pellet I broke open contained two rodent skulls and the associated skeletons.  Those owls are some busy eaters indeed!

Barn Owl Pellet

Fur and bones – a barn owl pellet. Photo by MacKenzie Hall

Thinking ahead, it would be great to develop a formal barn owl nest box project in northern NJ, similar to what’s been done in south Jersey, and for American kestrels.  Barn owls are limited in part by suitable nest sites, so there’s plenty of room to make improvements for this farm-friendly bird.  Eagle Scouts and interns welcomed!

Oh – and if any biology students out there want to dissect the pellets and analyze the birds’ diet, I will happily bequeath the two bags to you.