Wildlife advocates in Northern Virginia are teaming up to save barn owls, using one box at a time.
Barn owls are nocturnal, so many people never see them.
However, wildlife advocates said there is another reason why they aren’t being seen; their population is on the decline.
“This year, I had two orphans come in from a site where a barn was torn down, so they didn’t have a home anymore,” Belinda Burwell, Wildlife Vet Care, said.
Barn owls are particular about their habitats and nesting sites, and with the change in farming practices such as the change in crops grown, poisons used and barn structure design, the owls are left with little to no places to call home.
“Barn owls thrive in areas where there are farms that grow grasses and grains and things like that. So many farms have switched over to growing soybean and corn and that’s just not conducive to the kinds of rats and mice that barn owls like to eat,” Burwell said.
Barns are an ideal habitat for barn owls, because they have openings making it easy for owls to fly in and out of. However, these type of barns are being replaced and demolished across the state.
The Virginia Master Naturalist started the Barn Owl and Kestral Nest Box Project. The group makes and hangs boxes in old silos or open spaces, where the owls can live safely away from predators and reproduce.
“Generally, barn owls need a fairly large box [that’s] at least a couple of feet by a foot and a half, because they aren’t large birds but they can have quite a few young,” Liz Dennison, Virginia Master Naturalist, said.
Although the project is fairly new, Dennison said it has already helped bring many baby barn owls into the area, but she does realize you can’t control an animal, especially one with wings.
“We like to put the owls where there is a box with the hope that they will stay in the area, because we’ve picked a good area. We’ve picked a good territory [and] location for them, and we hope they stay,” Dennison said.
She hopes to have many more boxes up before the end of the year and said she is hopeful that the project will help save the species in the Northern Virginia area.
“Sometimes, you build it, and they will come,” Dennison said.