Pennsylvania Game Commission Confirms Barn Owl In Washington County
BOLIVAR (Westmoreland County) -Pennsylvania –-(Ammoland.com)- Pennsylvania Game Commission biologists have confirmed the presence of a barn owl on a farm near Washington, Washington County, for the first time in nearly a decade.
Once a common bird on Pennsylvania farms, barn owls have been declining in Pennsylvania and across the United States. While several barn owls nested in the state’s southwest corner during the first Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas, which covered the period of 1984-89, none were recorded in the area in the most recent Breeding Bird Atlas, which was conducted from 2004-09.
“Loss of habitats, changes in farming practices, and loss of nest sites are the main reasons for the drop in barn owl numbers,” said Tammy Colt, Game Commission Regional Wildlife Diversity Biologist. “Barn owls usually nest in barns, silos and hollow trees, and they eat small mammals, primarily voles, mice and shrews. A barn owl can eat two to three small rodents per day, so barn owls are great pest control agents! They very rarely eat birds and are therefore no threat to chickens, ducks, pheasants or turkeys.”
The most exciting thing about the barn owl that is living in Washington is the fact that it is wearing a leg band, which enables biologists to identify where the bird originated. Working with biologists in surrounding states, it has been determined the owl came from northeastern Ohio.
“This find provides more evidence that barn owls are very mobile and are capable of colonizing new sites where grassland habitat and nest sites are available,” said Doug Gross, Game Commission ornithologist. “There really is no need to raise barn owls and release them someplace. If you have habitat, they will come; they are quite capable.”
In 2005, the Game Commission began a Barn Owl Conservation Initiative to learn more about the state’s barn owls and to increase their numbers. Through this effort, the Game Commission identified more than 135 nest sites, mostly in the southeast and southcentral areas of the state. As part of the initiative, agency personnel banded hundreds of barn owls, primarily nestlings, and installed many nest boxes.
“Hopefully, the owl near Washington will take up permanent residence,” Colt said. “To that end, the Moraine Preservation Fund has donated and installed two nest boxes on the farm.”
To learn more about barn owls, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on “Wildlife” in the menu bar at the top of the homepage and then click on “Barn Owl Conservation Initiative.” For more information on the Moraine Preservation Fund, visit www.morainepreservationfund.org.