by Jack Spaulding
They are at it again … more baby owls! The Indiana barn owl pair — “reality TV” YouTube stars viewed on a live nest cam — are putting on a second act of parenthood. They are raising a second brood of chicks unusually late into the nesting season.
The existence of a bonus round of chicks late last year is good news for barn owls because they are an endangered species in Indiana. In 2015, only 10 barn owl nests were reported statewide.
The mother owl laid the second clutch of eggs in late September, which is just within the standard barn owl breeding season from March to October. But this nesting season was the first time the pair laid eggs for the second time while being viewed on the nest cam.
Five chicks hatched from the second clutch about a month later.
On Dec. 5, Indiana Department of Natural Resources nongame bird biologists inspected the chicks while placing identification bands on their legs.
Three chicks were healthy, but two were much smaller. The healthy chicks will likely survive until fledging. The average number of chicks fledged per nest is two to three, so having three survive is normal, according to Allisyn Gillet, DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife nongame bird biologist.
“The survival of the chicks will depend on food availability over the next few weeks,” Gillet said. “There must be enough prey to feed both adults and chicks in order to have a successful second nest.”
The pair successfully laid six eggs in March 2017, and raised and fledged the six chicks in late spring.
A barn owl pair has been living in the DNR-built nest box inside a metal pole barn in southern Indiana every year since 2009, the DNR noted on its YouTube channel.
Barn owls have a distinct heart-shaped face, dark eyes and white to golden-brown feathers.
They were once common in the Midwest, living in hollow trees and wooden barns, and hunting for meadow voles in hayfields, idle grain fields, pastures and other grasslands. But many wooden barns are being torn down, and few modern farms offer the land a barn owl needs for hunting.
The goal of the webcam is to promote public interest in birds and raise awareness about efforts to support barn owls.
DNR’s Wildlife Diversity Program has been placing nest boxes for barn owls since 1984. The nest boxes, like the one the webcam owls use, give owls a safe place to raise their young. More information is at wildlife.IN.gov/3382.htm.
The barn owl webcam can be viewed anytime at youtube.com/watch?v=dNc5f0Ohmfw&feature=youtu.be.
The barn owl is one of more than 750 animal species, including many rare and endangered animals, supported by the DNR’s Wildlife Diversity Program. The diversity program depends on donations to the DNR Nongame Fund. You can donate at EndangeredWildlife.IN.gov.
For updates on Indiana’s nongame wildlife, subscribe to an email list at bit.ly/2j9hY0O.
Jack Spaulding is a state outdoors writer and a consumer of RushShelby Energy living along the Flatrock River in Moscow. Readers with questions or comments can write to him in care of Electric Consumer, P.O. Box 24517, Indianapolis, IN 46224; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.