Saturday, January 22, 2011

North American Barn Owl Habitats: Buff Body, Cavity Nest, White Egg


Summary: North American barn owl habitats year-round from southwest Canada through Caribbean and Central America sustain buff bodies, cavity nests and white eggs.


barn owl subspecies (Tyto alba pratincola); April 18, 2008: C.F. Zeillemaker/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public Domain, via USFWS National Digital Library

North American barn owl habitats abound near cultivators through Tytonidae family member appetites for field animals and near naturalists through distribution ranges from Canada south into Mexico and Caribbean and Central America.
The barn owl bears its common name from associations with rural structures and the scientific name Tyto alba from Greek for owl and Latin for white. Climate change-induced snow cover, modern agricultural methods and pesticides challenge barn owls, described in 1769 by Italian naturalist Giovanni Antonio Scopoli (June 3, 1723-May 8, 1788). Night and sunset draw barn owls out respectively for detecting prey noiselessly by keen senses of scent and vision and for dividing them among their young.
Eight-year lifespans expect countrysides, deserts, farmlands, fields, grasslands or pastures near nest-worthy buildings, burrows, caves, cliffs, mines, quarries, trees or wells away from forests and mountains.

January through September facilitate brooding one 3- to 11-egg clutch or more in owl pellet-lined or unlined artificial nests, natural cavities, rocky crevices or structural holes.
Breeding females each year get different-aged, different-sized broods since they generate the current clutch's eggs at two- to three-day intervals for immediate incubation and variable hatching. Breeding females handle honing cavity nests into predator-free havens for their eggs, hatchlings and nestlings while fathers-to-be have the daily responsibility of hunting prey for mothers-to-be. First-laid, non-glossy, 1.49- to 1.89-inch (38- to 48-millimeter) by 1.10- to 1.38-inch (28- to 35-millimeter), smooth, subelliptical to elliptical white eggs initiate 21- to 34-day incubations.
Predatory buzzards, eagle-owls, golden eagles, great horned owls, lanners, northern goshawks, peregrine falcons, red kites, snakes, stoats and tawny owls jeopardize North American barn owl habitats.

Helpless, ivory-billed hatchlings with pale blue irises the first few weeks know initially short, white down and, 12 days later, secondarily buff-cream, clinging, long, thick down.
Down leaves hatchlings naked along necks and behind tarsi (lower legs) and sparse-covered on bellies with first coats and subsequently semi-naked on lower legs and toes. Nestlings, maintained by monogamous parents, manage feathering in three to seven weeks, flying in eight weeks, physical independence in 10 weeks and sexual maturity as one-year-olds. Adults with dark-adapted eyes and motion-sensitive hearing need bats, cottontails, crickets, crows, dormice, gophers, grasshoppers, hares, katydids, meadowlarks, mice, moles, muskrats, rabbits, rats, shrews and voles.
North American barn owl habitats up to 13,123.36 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level offer winter-coldest temperatures at minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 26.11 degrees Celsius).

Fatalities from development-impacted habitat and prey, from non-existent fat reserves for climate change-increased snowfall and from pesticide-induced eggshell-thinning and poisoning prove perilous for barn owl populations. American sycamore, silver maple and white oak qualify as historically nest- and roost-worthy amid modernity's habitat-unfriendly corn and metal successors to prey-friendly hay, oats and wood.
Barred tails and wings, black- and gray-spotted buff upper-parts and white underparts reveal dark-, small-eyed, ear tuft-less, feather-legged, long-winged adults with heart-shaped, rounded, ruffed facial discs. Flapped, fluttered, gliding flight on 39.37- to 49.21-inch (10- to 125-centimeter) wingspans suggest 2.59- to 15.74-inch (32- to 40-centimeter), 14.11- to 24.69-ounce (400- to 700-gram) adults.
North American barn owl habitats trigger harsh shkreee by airborne males, loud hisses at intruders and predators and soft purrs by food-transporting males and nest-inspecting females.

Female barn owl (Tyto alba) guards eggs and hatchlings; May 15, 2009: Richard Bonnett (rebonnett), CC BY 2.0, via Flickr

Acknowledgment
My special thanks to:
Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.
Image credits:
barn owl subspecies (Tyto alba pratincola); April 18, 2008: C.F. Zeillemaker/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public Domain, via USFWS National Digital Library @ https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/cdm/singleitem/collection/natdiglib/id/5053/rec/1
Female barn owl (Tyto alba) guards eggs and hatchlings; May 15, 2009: Richard Bonnett (rebonnett), CC BY 2.0, via Flickr @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/bonnyboy/3708392822/

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