Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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  Barn Owl
 
 

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  Order Strigiformes - Nocturnal Birds of Prey (Owls)
   Family Tytonidae - Barn Owls, Grass Owls, Bay Owls

  Owls are a relatively homogeneous group. Raptorial adaptations of their feet and bill, soft plumage, and largely nocturnal habits set them apart from other birds. Their eyes are directed forward to provide binocular vision. There is a facial disc behind the ear openings (involved in localizing sound and capturing prey).
Barn Owls have a heart-shaped facial disk and the inner tow is as long as the middle toe.
     
     
  Barn Owl, Tyto alba
 
   Cornell    USGS     Wiki     ToL     EoL
        YEAR-ROUND - Uncommon - Rare (local) / Occasional (breeds)
            OPEN, NEAR HABITATIONS
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   Barn Owls are native to most of the barrier islands where they hunt a variety of small mammals and birds in open areas - I've seen them catch Tree Swallows which may be abundant during migration, but they primarily rely on small rodents. They normally hunt at night, departing their roost at dusk. They are more nocturnal than most owls which tend to be crepuscular (dawn-dusk) hunters. They are most likely to be seen over coastal marshes at dusk.
   Barn Owls have a white, heart-shaped facial disk. Their body is pale tawny and they have long legs. Their voice a long hissing shriek that doesn't carry as well as songs of other owls. You are probably more likely to seen one at dusk than hear it...   
Barn Owl
     
Barn Owl - Grandfather "Wid" Helms, Indiana
   
  RANGE: Barn Owls breed broadly across the lower states - from New York west to Oregon with few in the Great Plains. Their range extends south through Middle America and South America to Tierra del Fuego. They may withdraw from their northern-most areas in the US in winter. Barn Owls are cosmopolitan - they have virtually a world-wide distribution.
  BREEDING: Monogamous. One (two?) broods. Barn Owls typically nest in abandoned structures (barns, light-houses, out-buildings, houses, etc.), on cliffs, and occasionally in a burrow. They will use a nest box. The nest is usually unlined and undefined but may be surrounded by white urine spots. Females lay 3-8 (2-12)  eggs and incubates them for 29-34 days. The male feeds the female during incubation. Eggs hatch asymmetrically over a period as long as two weeks. Development is semialtricial. Both sexes brood and feed the young. Chicks can fly by 52-56 days. Young return to sleep at or near the nest for several more weeks.
  DIET: They feed mostly on rodents (voles), rarely amphibians, reptiles, insects, and a few birds. They eject pellets containing undigested fur, teeth and some bones. They usually hunt by flying over an open field or marsh, listening for prey.
  VOICE: A long, hissing shriek. Not heard over the distance most owls manage.
  NOTES
   Checklists -
      Kiawah - rare year round
      Coastal - uncommon permanent resident. Hilton Head - rare permanent resident. Cape Romain - uncommon year-round, breeds.
         Huntington Beach
- accidental.
      Caw Caw - uncommon year-round. ACE - rare year-round, breeds.
   CBC: ACE 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 2, 0.
            Hilton Head 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0;
            McClellanville 3, 2, 2, 0, nc, 1, 0, 1; Winyah Bay x, x, 1, 0, 0, 1, 2, 2; Litchfield/Pawleys 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0.
   SCBBA: Records in Jasper, Berkeley, and Georgetown Counties.
   P&G: Uncommon resident. Egg dates: 7 February - 24 September.
   M&P: Status poorly defined. Uncommon on the coast.
   Avendex: 5 reports. Maximum: 5, Charleston Co., May 10, 1997 - migration count.
   Potter: Rare to uncommon at most localities but a permanent resident in the Carolinas. The population increases somewhat in winter by northern migrants.
  ●  Barn Owls are declining due to urbanization. Barn Owls are not on the list of Seabrook Island birds and I would not expect them here - there are no abandoned structures and no agricultural fields for hunting (although they could use the marsh areas and adjacent truck farm areas). There are also too many people for them to be comfortable. I've included them because they really are typical of our coastal island birds and certainly occurred here in the past and are included on the Kiawah list as breeders. A migrant or winter bird might well be found. They are found elsewhere in coastal Christmas Counts and could be present in rural areas of Wadmalaw and Edisto Islands. If one is found I'd expect it to be a winter visitor from farther north.
       
    Banner - Barn Owl. Sapelo Island, GA.
       
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KEY:    ■ Seabrook list     □ Kiawah list