In June 2011, an adult female Barn Owl was found on a residential driveway in Gilroy, unable to fly. X-rays indicated that the owl's left wing was pinioned and the two metacarpals and phalanges (wrist and finger bones) and primary feathers were missing. Such mutilation is performed to deliberately cripple a bird in captivity, most often domestic ducks and geese to prevent them from flying away and escaping. Pinioning is not the same as clipping the feathers of pet birds such as parrots. Clipped feathers will grow back but amputating the bone itself is permanent and cannot be repaired surgically. In the U.S., it's illegal to injure a migratory bird or keep one in captivity without a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Because this barn owl had no wounds and her feathers were in good condition - except for the left wing mutilation, of course - it's certain that the owl's injury was not caused by an unfortunate accident or from mangling by a natural predator such as a raccoon or another raptor. For several months, the owl was kept under observation to ensure that the injury didn't cause further pain or prevent her from freely ambulating in an enclosure. In October, Barnadette officially joined WERC's educational animal ambassador team. Barnadette lives in a large enclosure with a specially-made ladder-ramp and extra perches so that she can hop up to her loft, where she sleeps during the day. Barnadette has a second job as a foster mother to the many barn owlets that arrive every year after they've fallen out of their nests or been orphaned. Her presence will help prevent them from becoming imprinted on their human caretakers.
Barn Owl Fast Facts
The Barn Owl has excellent low-light vision, and can easily find prey at night by sight. Its ability to locate prey by sound alone is the best of any animal that has ever been tested. It can catch mice in complete darkness in the lab, or hidden by vegetation or snow out in the real world.
Natural predators of the Barn Owl include opossums, raccoons, and similar carnivorous mammals, as well as large raptors such as hawks, eagles, and other large owls.
Known by many other names, referring to its appearance, call, habitat or silent flight: White Owl, Silver Owl, Demon Owl, Ghost Owl, Death Owl, Night Owl, Rat Owl, Church Owl, Cave Owl, Stone Owl, Monkey-faced Owl, Hissing Owl, White Breasted Owl, Golden Owl, Screech Owl, Straw Owl, Barnyard Owl
Height: 14"- 20" Wingspan: 43"- 47" Weight: 1 lb (460 gm)
Voice: Hissing shriek
Habitat: Meadows, grasslands, pastures, fields, farmland
Nesting: Monogamous. 2-12 whitish eggs in natural hollows in trees, cliffs, and caves, or in man-made structures, like nest boxes, barns, chimneys, and other structures. 1-3 broods per year. Young fed by both parents.
Diet: Mostly small rodents such as mice and gophers, but also birds, fish, reptiles, and insects. A farmer's friend-- A family of 2 adults and 6 young may consume over 1,000 rodents during the 3-month nesting period.
Behavior: Nocturnal. While perched, the barn owl has a habit of lowering its head and swaying from side to side, called "toe-dusting".
Life Expectancy in the wild: 11-25 years
Range: The Barn Owl is one of the most widely distributed birds in the world, found on all continents except Antarctica, and on many oceanic islands as well.