Birdwatching Canada

A voice for the northern birds

Barn Owl Burbs

Do you have barn owls on your life list? Me neither.

Worldwide, they have a very wide distribution. They are found in the Americas, in most of Europe, in non-Saharan Africa, India, South East Asia and Australia

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

These light coloured owls with their heart shaped facial disk are not easy to find in Canada. There are small numbers of them in southern Ontario and Quebec, but their main population is in southern British Columbia. There  have been a few sightings in other provinces, but no nesting sites reported.

The population in BC is estimated at approximately 1,000 individuals, and classed as an animal Of Special Concern. The very small populations In Ontario and Quebec, are classed as Endangered.

The BC barn owls may be getting a hand from orchard owners in Oregon. There is a growing movement there to put up as many barn owl nest boxes as possible to reduce the rodent populations. One family of hungry barn owls can consume more than 3,000 rodents in a nesting season, a fact that has not escaped their notice.

“Voles and gophers cost us more money than you can possibly imagine,” said orchardist Mike Omeg. They eat the roots of young fruit trees or damage the roots of older trees so they don’t bear as well. The cost to farm production can tally in the thousands of dollars a year.”

“The number one limiting factor for barn owls is nesting sites,” said Omeg, who has installed 35 owl boxes and two kestrel boxes on his 350 acres.

As with other wildlife species, urbanization decreased their populations due to the lack of nesting sites, and the resulting drop in prey species. Unlike other animals though, barn owls respond well to a helping hand from the human usurpers of their territory. They are particularly fond of nest boxes provided by land owners, and sometimes prefer them to other sites.

Increases in barn owl populations were noted in Britain after nest boxes were put up. The main characteristics required for a barn own next box are: they have to be dark, with a small opening,  at the same height as natural sites in the area, in an undisturbed area and with the entrance facing an open area to allow for takeoff. They have to be maintained and cleaned regularly. You can get more information on building barn owl nest boxes here.

If you live in a rural area of southern BC, Ontario or Quebec, give a thought to putting up a barn owl nest box. Not only will the owls thank you, but you’ll be thanking the owls when your mice and rats disappear!

Check the Ontario Barn Owl Recovery Project website for more details or listen to the Barn Owl’s call at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website.

Filed under: Owls, , ,

68 Owl Day

To many birdwatchers, owls are the ultimate challenge. Absolute masters at blending into their environment, combined with the fact that many species are nocturnal, owl sightings are always a treat.

Two experienced birdwatchers in northern Alberta may have just set a record for that treat.

Leaving Edmonton at 7:00 am, they headed through the boreal forest towards Slave Lake. At the end of the day, they had seen an incredible 46 northern hawk owls and 22 great greys.

Birders around the country can only dream of such a day.

Filed under: Owls

It’s Spring!

It’s March in Canada. The Great-horned owls are nesting, the ravens are doing their courtship flights, and today I had the first robin of the year in my yard. What better day to start a Canada birdwatching blog?

There is actually very little information on the net about birdwatching in Canada. I want to rectify that. It is my hope that this blog will become an interactive voice for birds and birders in Canada.

The following item was posted to Alberta Bird a few weeks ago:

A Northern Hawk Owl was watched as it spent about 5 minutes repeatedly attacking fir cones at the top of its tree. When a cone failed to dislodge after a pecking from the bill, the bird would fly out then swoop down and grab the cone with its talons, and drop it off beyond the tree. After the last visible cone in the uppermost 10 feet of the tree had been felled, it settled in to its perch and began preening.

This item really livened up the list, with birders from all over trying to figure out this strange behaviour. Leave us a comment if you want to join the guessers!

Filed under: Owls,

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