Barn Owl Sightings Increase in Wisconsin, but
the Future of this Iconic Bird Remains in Doubt
by Juanes Palma, age 9
In 2018, a unique species of barn owls were reported for the first time in over two decades in Wisconsin by The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The owls were spotted in September of 2018 as a pair of these birds were found in the cavity of a dead tree. Recently, there has been an increase in barn owl sightings in Wisconsin and other near states.
These creatures usually live in the dark and are known for their white heart-shaped faces. There are about 46 different known species of barn owls around the world. Scientists have studied these barn owls through the small pellets that are coughed up after they eat their prey. These pellets contain indigestible parts of the owl’s foods such as skulls, bones, and fur. Using owl pellets, researchers have learned a lot about their diets and the ecosystems they belong to.
The chests of male and female barn owls are a distinguishing feature. Female owls have a faint red patch on their chest. The patches might reflect the female's quality of health. Females with darker red patches tend to catch fewer catch parasitic flies and have a more resistant immune system.
Researchers have conducted many scientific trials and concluded that the markings might also encourage male counterparts to do more work at the nest. During an experiment the markings of a few female barn owls were, it was later observed that the male partners fed their nestlings less frequently compared to females who still had their red patches.
Barn owls hunt in broad fields and meadows at night. Listen for their spooky, scratchy sounds, which are distinct from the calls of many other owls. Although barn owl sightings have slightly increased in the past few years, the population of these night creatures is decreasing due to the loss of their natural habitats.
[Sources: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; All About Birds]