For the last nine years, Mass Audubon’s Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts has shared its Nature Center with barn owls. In a dormer of the building, formerly a barn, that pair bred, mated, laid eggs, and raised many broods of owlets in this box. The barn owls that reside here are wild, entering and leaving the box through the rectangular opening on the left of the screen. Two clutches of offspring per year was common for this pair. The winter of 2015 was historic and during the coldest part of the year, we lost one of the barn owls. The other has not been seen since mid-February.
A variety of factors may have contributed to this bird’s demise. Barn owls are at their most northern range here on Martha’s Vineyard, making them even more susceptible to severe winter conditions. In fact, they can now only reliably be seen in Massachusetts on the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
Barn owls are nocturnal hunters that prey mainly on rodents. With snow cover on the ground, finding mice, voles, and other small mammals has become more difficult. Pair that with frigid temperatures, and survival for these birds is even more tenuous. The barn owl pair at the sanctuary was quite long-lived for the species, most of which won’t make it to five years. Sanctuary Director Suzan Bellincampi noted that this pair was in their box in the dormer of the Nature Center when she arrived in 2006! http://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/felix-neck/news-events/winter-2015-barn-owl-report
Felix Neck’s Barn Owl Cam is partially sponsored by Bearly Read Books in Sudbury, MA. Go to www.massaudubon.org/felixneck to learn more about the Sanctuary. Mass Audubon at Felix Neck accepts tax-deductible contributions to support its mission, which includes the Barn Owl Cam and other wildlife, conservation, and education initiatives on Martha’s Vineyard and in Massachusetts.