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Barn Owl Nesting Bonanza

While the documentation of 17 Barn Owl nests and 33 total records in 2016 was an all-time record high for Iowa, that record was more than doubled this year. Currently, 38 Barn Owl nests are documented in 26 counties, and 71 young Barn Owls have fledged from 26 nests. Twenty-nine of the 38 nests are in the bottom three tiers of Iowa counties. Northernmost nest counties are Sioux, Clay (first documented nest in the better part of a century), Franklin, Butler, and Chickasaw. Grand total, there have been 66 Barn Owl records (nests and sightings) from 35 different counties. Much effort and time has been invested in tracking Barn Owl reports, and that effort and related publicity has definitely produced significant results.

People, in general, seem to love Barn Owls, and Facebook and other social media reports and photos of Barn Owls helped provide avenues of pursuit toward documenting more nests. Since the last nest reported (in a Clarke County deer stand) will not fledge young before December, I suspect that more nests may be forthcoming. In 2016, Pat Schlarbaum documented that egg-laying for Barn Owls began ~ March 12, and this year we are documenting the other end of the nesting season will extend into December. No other Iowa nesting bird species has been documented to have such an extended nesting season.

 This is the fourth year in-a-row that Barn Owl nesting has continued to increase. In two years' time, Iowa Barn Owls have more than met the objectives set for five years in Iowa’s Barn Owl Recovery Plan. It will be interesting to observe whether or not this increasing trend continues. If it does and is documented, the Barn Owl can potentially be upgraded from Endangered to Threatened status or perhaps even delisted altogether.

A high percentage of this year’s nests were in or atop grain bins and silos, especially inside round metal storage bins. Four nests were located in towns. At least four nests were in hollow trees, and for the first time in my career, Barn Owls nested successfully under a bridge. The remaining nests were found in barns or in other out-buildings.

Many thanks to the many people who have reported their Barn Owls to us this year, and a special thank you to those who encourage this owl’s presence on your property.  If you wish to report a Barn Owl sighting or would like information on how to build and place your own Barn Owl nest box, please call (515-432-2823, ext. 106) or email Bruce Ehresman.

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