Barn Owls began breeding on Nantucket in 1968. These birds do not like very cold weather and prior to 2002, the population was only about 15 to 20 pairs. During the severe winters of 2002 and 2003, however, the population crashed to a low of only one known owl in 2005. In 2006 we knew of one successful nest and the population has been increasing since then, helped perhaps by the construction of many nesting boxes.
Inside a Nantucket Barn Owl box:
In 2012, we banded 63 Barn Owls, including 7 adults and 56 pre-fledgling chicks in 22 nests. We managed to recapture 7 additional adults, which were banded as chicks between 2007and 2011. In every case, these birds had moved away from their natal nests. Banding birds is a useful way to track and monitor a population.
How do we band Barn Owls?
- We temporarily take the young out of the box to measure them.
To band Barn Owls, we use a ladder to access the elevated nesting boxes. The adults typically fly away, though sometimes we are able to catch them and collect important measurement data. There can be up to eight young owls in a box. We check the boxes after the babies hatch, but before they can fly. We measure the young and then loosely attach an aluminum band to their leg. This lightweight band has a unique number and will be with the bird its entire life.