State wants lowdown on local barn owl numbers

Barn owls are making a comeback in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The Division of Wildlife is seeking reports from people who have seen barn owls recently.

Reporting sightings helps biologists estimate how many live in Ohio. This information benefits conservation efforts by tracking where and how the owls live.

The species is easily identified by its white, heart-shaped face, large black eyes and golden-brown and gray back. Adult barn owls communicate with shrieks and hissing-like calls, and the calls of young barn owls begging their parents for food are often heard on late summer nights.

Finding pellets is another indication barn owls may be living nearby. Pellets are regurgitated bones and fur of their food.

Small rodents living in hayfields and pastures are a barn owl’s main food source. A pair of barn owls and their young can eat more than 1,000 rodents in a year.

As their name suggests, these birds find shelter in barns or other dark buildings, such as silos. These buildings provide a safe place for them to rest during the day and to raise their young.

The Division of Wildlife has provided shelter for barn owls since 1988 by placing nest boxes on more than 400 barns. Nest boxes provide an opportunity for them to nest in barns they could not otherwise enter.

This program has successfully increased barn owl populations in Ohio. The number of nests has increased from 19 in 1988 to more than 100 in 2012. Biologists believe many nest in areas other than these boxes.

Anyone who believes a barn owl is living near them should call (800) 945-3543.