Barn Owl Nesting Facts
Clutch Size: 2–18 eggs
Number of Broods: 1-3 broods
Incubation Period: 29–34 days
Nestling Period: 50–55 days
The female makes a simple nest of her own regurgitated pellets, shredded with her feet and arranged into a cup. Unlike most birds, owls may use their nest sites for roosting throughout the year. Nest sites are often reused from year to year, often by different owls.
Barn owls don’t only live in barns. Historically they lived in many different types of rural buildings and tree hollows. Basically they will use anything that provides what they need: somewhere that gives them shelter from rain and wind and where they ‘feel safe’. Unless the site is extremely isolated, barn owls generally roost and nest at least nine feet above ground level.
Barn owls can breed in their first year. They don’t build a nest but usually choose a ledge in a building or a hollow in a tree where the white eggs are laid. The female starts to sit as soon as the first egg is laid - incubation takes 31 days. There can be an age difference of several days between owlets. On average, 5 - 6 eggs are laid, with 3 - 4 hatching and only 2 - 3 owlets actually fledging. One brood (family) per pair per year is normal, although in areas with good habitat and therefore a plentiful food supply, two broods in a year are possible.
Barn owls are crepuscular; they hunt mainly at dusk and dawn, flying low over rough grassland, hedges and ditches looking for voles, shrews and mice. Over a whole year (including breeding) a pair of barn owls and their family may consume 5,000 small mammals.
Barn owls fly slowly over open fields at night or dusk with slow wingbeats and a looping, buoyant flight. They use their impressive hearing, aided by their satellite-dish-shaped faces, to locate mice and other rodents in the grass, often in complete darkness. Barn owls are usually monogamous and mate for life, although there are some reports of males with more than one mate. Males attract their mates with several kinds of display flights, including a “moth flight” where he hovers in front of a female for several seconds, his feet dangling. He also displays potential nest sites by calling and flying in and out of the nest. After the pair forms, the male brings prey to the female (often more than she can consume), beginning about a month before she starts laying eggs. Barn Owls defend the area around their nests, but don’t defend their hunting sites; more than one pair may hunt on the same fields.