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Are barn-owls dangerous?


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Now we've had a "barny" living in one of our barns since we aquired the house in 2002, (and probably before).

We "tolerate" it making a mess of the stuff in there, and we cover the caravan and tools with tarps to avoid it's "offerings".[:)]

All in all, we were quite pleased to have it there, and offered it as little disturbance as was possible.

However, a recent conversation with a mate who reckons to be a serious "twitcher" has rather worried me. He reckons that the owl could attack us when we entered the barn if it had young in there, (and we know it HAS had in the past). He cited the example of Eric Hoskins who apparently lost an eye to a barn-owl protecting it's young. And went on to say that we'd not hear it coming, which is true, as I've seen and not heard it leave the barn at dusk.

So...........are we in any danger? Or is he just pulling our legs? We keep the mowers in there. Over to Chris...........

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Eric Hoskins had climbed up to the nest and disturbed the owl (I believe it was a Tawny Owl) and its young, but I think they aren't going to fly down and attack you, unless you seem to be a serious threat. It is apparently not unheard-of, but uncommon.

Beautiful creatures, but one or more have rendered our house almost uninhabitable due to droppings, so they have no real sense of proportion... They hunt by looking for the reflection of moonlight in the eyes of their prey (according to the Mr Pastry Annual of 1954 where I first read the Hoskins story).

They are a protected species, although my French neighbour had no doubts about how ours should be treated.

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Pretty much what I'd thought about the attacks Dick.

Also the droppings: they must have HUGE appetites. Ours has literally coverd the barn, it's contents etc with pellets and droppings, and the droppings are an absolute b*gger to remove, once set.

I'm not so sure about the Mr Pastry annual, though. I reckon they hunt by hearing.

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We have barn owls living in our barns (!) and also in a niche in an outside wall of the house.  In one barn, the tractor gets divebombed regularly and in the other, the car.  However, it appears this is a bit seasonal as recently the behicles are all clean !  But the pellets continue.  We are very glad of our owls - one owl is worth 2 cats in terms of keeping the mouse population down, I believe !

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I grant you that Mr Pastry was not the last word in ornithology, despite his passing resemblance to Bill Oddy. But Hoskins was certain that it was the moonlight reflected in his eyes that the owl went for.

We are having to hire someone for 2 days to remove the owlopoop from our loft. And it don't half stink in hot weather... A bit like a badly run petshop on steroids.

When I was a kid we used to take barn owl pellets into school for the nature table, and our teacher would open them up so that we could see all the little vole bones. Can't see that happening under the National Curriculum, somehow...

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[quote user="Dick Smith"]

When I was a kid we used to take barn owl pellets into school for the nature table, and our teacher would open them up so that we could see all the little vole bones. Can't see that happening under the National Curriculum, somehow...

[/quote]

Good Grief, you'd have to wear rubber gloves and a protective face mask now.  And not be under the age of 49 and a quarter.  [;-)]

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no silly of course you wont need glove[:P]

[8-|]you can buy them sanitaised ready for the job

however we had the greatest fun when a friend said could he leave his prized possesion in our barn for a short while........... 6 months later..... the barn owl gave him hours of work we sat and watched whilst drinking wine in the sun  arhh  he shouldn't take friends for granted..

Jx

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I get dive bombed on occasions by Barn Owls when I get close to a nest with young, contact never takes place as the owl will change course slightly at the last minute and fly past. I've never had any other type of owl present this type of behaviour, they seem content to simply keep an eye on you.

The owls we have in France hunt by using a combination of sound and vision, some species more by sound, e.g. Tawny Owl, some more by vision, e.g. Barn Owl.

Here's a Long eared owl watching me a couple of weeks ago, her young are to my left.

[IMG]http://i133.photobucket.com/albums/q73/unautremonde/RSCN0890.jpg[/IMG]

Chris

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Occupational hazard for plumbers, not actually attacked but scared witless when trapped in a roof with a barn owl who was more at home than I was.

Fortunately it decided to go out for long enough for me to finish and get out of the roof

Our garden teems with wildlife and we love it all but the things I meet in the stopcock pits, roofs and other places shows them in their defensive mode

Still have to meet a pine martin in a roof but I think I could cross the rest off the list, and I am amazed that most clients have no idea what is living over their heads

Le Plombier

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  • 2 weeks later...
does anybody know of any sanctuary for owls? when we move to the Jura (at 950m) we will have a huge integral barn and would love to play host to barn owls. I am not sure if they do live at higher altitude> We would definitely consider re-homing a pair. We will be surrounded by wildmeadows and forests.

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My book says they do live/breed in that area, so you may be lucky. I doubt you could INSTALL a pair though.

IMHO, they'll come if they want and if there is:

Good food supply, being near a farm helps,

entrance and exit routes for the barn, with roosting/nesting areas avilable.

 My pair have roosted on the cross beams, which delivers libearl coating of pellets and droppings to everything beneath. the caravan and tools like the chainsaw have to be covered with tarps etc.

They nest on the tops of the walls, in the angle between the wall top and the roof.

They like as little disturbance as possible, so leaving barn doors open, using the barn a lot etc are no-no's.

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We have regular barn-owls in the old house (unused) at the bottom of the garden, and another pair  that usually nests in a hole above the front door. We therefore get plenty of pellets on the front door step....

Last year one decided to set up shop in the loft of the house, but we decided to deter him so blocked up the entrance hole, otherwise we would have pellets all over the loft.

A curious sideline is that one year we had Mr and Mrs Owl nesting in the hole above the door and Mr and Mrs Kestrel in another hole about 3 metres away. They seemed quite happy with the arrangemnet, probably because the Owls were on night shift and the Kestrels were on day shift...

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    We have similar - a chimney which is unused and splits into two sections - jackdaws in one half and barn owls in the other.  Like you we decided that it probably worked because of their shift systems!  Bit noisy in the bedroom and bathroom though..........

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Our owls are tucked in a niche in the wall of our house. I have put a litter tray on the terrace for the pellets, but they are not very accurate yet.

Today is very hot in Normandy (27c) and La Dame Blanche keeps sticking her head out to get cool.

If we build a nest box do you think they might move into it? How far from the house could we go? I would prefer it if they moved into the barn, but they don't seem to know that they are barn owls.

regards

Lisa

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It's highly unlike that a rescue centre will actually "install" a barn owl on it's release but they may release it near or on your land if it's appropriate and then of course it may be a male anyway.

Here's a list of centres. http://planetepassion.com/LISTS/union_nationale_des_centres_de_s.htm

I'm more than a little surprised to hear that people have barn owls actually nesting directly in an outside wall, I'd appreciate a photo as I've never heard of this before. The other thing of course is that rejection pellets are not a sign of nesting, only of roosting. A box will work if it's put in the right place and it's the right size and type just like any other bird box, and then it's a case of seeing whether it gets used or not..

Little owls nest in outside walls and will be seen out and about during daylight, especially when they have young  in the nest they will park nearby, they can also be seen sitting in the entrance to the nest site.

Chris

 

 

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Definitely nested in a small hole ( I read on a barn owl site that an entrance 7cm by 7cm is what they need and that is about what they have got), 3m off the ground in the outside wall of our house, Chris. First we found the eggshells, then had a good view of the two babies, (we watched from behind a fence, so as not to alarm them). Guests in our gite saw them fly the nest and then one of the babies was out in the garden at night at low level perching on the garden furniture and tapping on the lounge window. One of the babies is now roosting in the barn and the female is back in the nest. She seems quite happy to watch us in the garden, but we try not to eyeball her too much. They are definitely barn owls (we have been RSPB members for 35 years) and all the neighbours know that our house is a long-time home for them.

regards

Lisa

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7cm by 7cm ?  That's Little owl size, a Barn owl requires about 23cm x 23cm, that's three times the size. Perhaps you've got the size of the hole mixed up. For a "fly in and land" a Barn owl needs a good 50cm wide x 25cm high.

Chris

 

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This is I think what you must mean, taken from your link http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/infopage.html?Id=5

""Barn Owls do not build a nest. Therefore (for egg-laying and incubation), they need a cavity-bottom or ledge that's fairly level. For example, in an old barn the nest may be on a wall top or between bales, in a derelict house it may be in an old (dry) water tank or in the loft. To use any site, the owl has to be able to get in but the absolute minimum hole size required is only 70x70mm. The minimum width of a nest ledge is around 250mm and the minimum floor area of a nest cavity is about 0.1sq. metres (300x300mm). If you are thinking of creating a suitable access hole or space for nesting please don't use these minimum figures as a guide!""

Now I reckon this would be about as rare as anything could be and to squeeze, and it would be a serious squeeze into that hole they would have to land first on something larger. 

I'll look at the PM's now, I'm always at a disadvantage on this forum as I can't receive notifications and have to continually check.

Chris

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Have PMd the picture, but yes they have a ledge to land on outside. The walls of the house are of double thickness and the ledge and gap were originally (I think) to get air to the grain store before it was converted into bedrooms, long before we moved in.

I think she is in the gap between the stone walls, she looks as if she constantly has to duck her head to fit in. We therefore have a stone wall, insulation and plasterboard between us and the nest, but on a still night you could hear snoring, wheezing and that distinctive barn owl noise like the spin cycle of a washing machine!

regards

Lisa

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Would you like me to put the photo on the forum Lisa? It does give a much better idea of what the situation is. The hole is definitely somewhat larger than you thought and I suspect that the cavity "dog legs" sideways in the middle of the wall, just what they like.

Back in a bit, have to plant some weeds.[:D]

Chris

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That was the bit I tried to cover a few posts back with this....

It's highly unlike that a rescue centre will actually "install" a barn owl on it's release but they may release it near or on your land if it's appropriate and then of course it may be a male anyway.

Here's a list of centres. http://planetepassion.com/LISTS/union_nationale_des_centres_de_s.htm

Keep of the grass! I most certainly will.[;-)]

Chris

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