Each year, Marwell Wildlife, which owns and operates Marwell Zoo, keeps watch on Barn Owl nests on the lands surrounding the zoo. So far this summer, they’ve discovered six healthy chicks on the property.
The six fluffy Owlets come from two breeding pairs and include three females and three males between five and seven weeks old.
Once found, the chicks were carefully removed from the nest for a thorough exam. The staff recorded the weight, wing feather development, body condition, and wing length, as well as noting any unique markings, which help to determine each chick’s age and gender.
The Owlets were then banded by placing a metal ring on the ankles, which will identify each Owl if it is captured in the future. The chicks were then safely returned to their nest boxes.
Marwell has successfully supported 16 Owlets since 2014, when it started working with the South Downs National Park Authority and the Hawk Conservancy Trust to monitor Barn Owl populations within the local landscape as part of the Barn Owl Box scheme (Project BOB). The project records the breeding success and aims to understand the survival and wider movements of Barn Owls.
As part of Marwell’s ongoing commitment to restore habitats, the charity manages more than 100 acres of grassland to create an ideal hunting habitat for this important farmland bird. No pesticides or fertilizers are used on the land. Voles, Shrews, and Mice thrive in this habitat, providing ample food for the Owl families. A single Barn Owl typically eats three to four prey items each night.
Barn Owls live on every continent except Antarctica. The Barn Owl’s heart-shaped face, or ‘facial disk’, collects and directs sound toward the inner ears, which are situated inside the facial disk just behind the eyes. As a result, Barn Owls’ hearing is the most sensitive of any animal ever tested. Owlets develop rapidly. By three weeks of age, they can swallow a whole Shrew or small Mouse. At eight to nine weeks, they begin taking practice flights. At 13 to 14 weeks old, Owlets have reached adult size and leave the nest to find their own home range.
See more photos below.