If you erect and maintain nesting boxes for birds in your yard, you realize the need to annually repair and clean them during a time when birds are not nesting. This is easy to do because the nesting dates of most birds that nest in our backyards are well known. However, if you have a barn owl nest box on your property, you have a problem. It seems that biologists know surprisingly little about when barn owls nest in Georgia.
Such is not the case in California. Researchers at the University of California, Davis combed through almost 100 years of banding and other records to determine when barn owls nest in California.
The biologists found that the median egg laying date in California is February 20. Consequently, the lead author of the study Ryan Bourbour says, “We want to reduce disturbances to breeding pairs prior to egg laying.” Based on the findings the researchers recommend boxes need to be erected, repaired, and cleaned in the fall.
Unfortunately, the only nesting records for Peach State barn owls are largely anecdotal. Only a dozen barn owl breeding records surfaced during The Breeding Bird Atlas of Georgia Project. Although most records came from central Georgia, breeding was corroborated from the mountains to the coast. Undoubtedly, barn owl nesting is more common and widespread in all parts of the state.
In Thomas Burleigh’s book Georgia Birds, the author noted that nests have been located from March to December. However, biologists do not have enough data to develop a median egg laying date for Georgia.
Since we know there is a need to provide more nesting sites for barn owls in Georgia, we all need to check our barn owl boxes during each season of the year. When we conduct a check, if no nesting is currently going on, we need to repair and clean it. If nesting has or is taking place since the last check, record it too. Over time, we should be able to determine when nesting takes occurs in our part of the state.
If you don’t have any barn owl nesting boxes on your property, consider erecting one. Once you have one in place, follow the procedure outlined above.
It would be great if landowners knew when it is the best time to conduct an annual barn owl nest box check.
Let me know what you find. I will forward your information on to the Wildlife Conservation Section biologists trying to restore nongame wildlife throughout Georgia. Hopefully, your information will enable them to establish a median egg laying date for Georgia and recommend the best time to check barn owl nesting boxes.