In March 2014, the female barn owl laid only one egg, and there has been no sign of the male. Fortunately, the egg has successfully hatched, and the female is quite busy taking care of her offspring. The task has fallen upon her to do all of the foraging, egg incubation and care for the owlet, since there is no male to feed her. The owlet is growing quite fast and, though still a bundle of white down, is nearly as large as its mother.
Had this season been more representative of barn owl behavior and reproduction, over the course of several weeks you might have observed the male barn owl in the box and witnessed courting, grooming and mating. The female usually lays between 2-11 eggs and incubates them for 29-34 days. Incubation of the eggs generally starts as soon as the first egg is laid, so the young hatch 2-3 days apart.
In the first few weeks after the young hatch, the female stays on the nest to brood and care for the helpless hatchlings while the male brings food to the female and young owlets.
The Barn OwlCam came into existence when the WildWatch staff received a request from a WDFW habitat biologist and hatchery manager to conduct a site and feasibility inspection for a barn owlcam. WDFW staff had recently completed construction of a barn owl nest box with modifications to an attic vent for a small entry area into the nest box. Recent demolition of a nearby barn that had long-standing documented use of barn owls led the biologist to obtain some nest boxes constructed in an attempt to attract nesting owls. Within a few months, one of the nest boxes was occupied by a pair of barn owls.
When we set up cameras to capture actual real-time images, we get whatever it is that nature hands out. It is a risk we take. Many times, it is a positive experience for everyone, as we watch young animals grow and mature. At other times, it is not so pleasant. But if we want to show our majestic wildlife to the world, it is important that we understand they also face risks from many directions.
When we established the WildWatchCam program, we anticipated that at some time the view might be unpleasant for some. We consulted with many biologists, and their advice was "once the birds start nesting, the risks to the chicks are far greater if a human intervenes than if we don't." So that is our operating philosophy. Once the birds begin the nesting process, we are done until all young have fledged and the adults move on. We don't adjust cameras that get knocked out of alignment; we don't clean cameras that get splattered by rain or feces; and we don't interfere with what nature dishes out. But we do get to learn about the life and death struggles that occur out of our windows.
We invite you to enjoy our other WildWatchCam scenes. Or, grab your binoculars and step out into our great outdoors and see what discoveries await you.
Please send out the WildWatchCam link to all of your friends and relatives - http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildwatch/
We appreciate your support expressed by your frequent cam viewing. You may also help by sending a tax-deductible donation to:
600 N. Capitol Way
Olympia WA 98501-1091