Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife staff
to begin annual barn owl banding project
DOVER (May 30, 2012) – Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife staff will begin its annual barn owl banding project this week, continuing until July. The Division maintains 17 barn owl nest boxes on state wildlife lands, and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge has eight boxes. During the nesting season, biologists check and clean these boxes and fit the barn owls with leg bands.
“Banding provides valuable information on life span, home range, nest site fidelity and migratory patterns, and assists in estimating population size,” said Kent County Regional Wildlife Manager Wayne Lehman, noting that barn owls provide a valuable service to their human neighbors, especially those with farms. “A single nesting pair of owls with a brood of young can eat more than a thousand rats, mice and voles during one nesting season – and they rarely feed on more desirable species such as small rabbits or birds.”
Although barn owls have been known to nest inland, in Delaware, they primarily nest along the coastal marshes, where the availability of their favorite food, meadow voles, is the highest, Lehman added.
Wildlife watchers are strongly encouraged not to disturb barn owl nest sites during the courtship, incubation and early hatchling stages. At these times, adult owls are very likely to abandon the nest site if disturbed. Additionally, disturbed young owls in their early fledgling stage will often leave their nest prematurely, before they are capable of flying back to its safe confines.
Construction and placement of nesting boxes in Delaware began in 1990. Since 1996, Delaware biologists have banded 556 barn owls, including young from 117 broods and 29 adult females. In addition, biologists in Delaware have captured previously banded birds from as far away as Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Md. Delaware banded birds have been regularly captured in New Jersey.
Additional information on barn owls comes from a companion study by the Barn Owl Research Foundation across the Delaware River in New Jersey, underway since 1980.
Vol. 42, No. 201