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Barn owls doubling down on parenting, with more babies


They are at it again; more baby owls! It seems the barn owl pair can’t get enough of parenthood, as they have doubled down on nesting.

These barn owls in southern Indiana can be viewed on a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) nest-cam. They are raising a second brood of chicks unusually late into the nesting season. The existence of a bonus round of chicks in 2017 is good news for barn owls because they are an endangered species in Indiana. In 2015, only 10 nests were reported statewide.

The mother owl laid the second clutch of eggs in late September, which is just within the standard barn owl breeding season from March-October. But this nesting season was the first time the pair laid eggs for the second time while being viewed on the nest-cam.

Five chicks hatched from the second clutch. On Dec. 5, DNR non-game bird biologists inspected the chicks while placing identification bands on their legs. Three chicks were healthy, but two were much smaller. The healthy chicks will likely survive until fledging.

The average number of chicks fledged per nest is 2-3, so having three survive is normal, according to Allisyn Gillet, DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife nongame bird biologist.

“The survival of the chicks will depend on food availability over the next few weeks,” Gillet said. “There must be enough prey to feed both adults and chicks, in order to have a successful second nest.”

The pair successfully laid six eggs in March, and raised and fledged the six chicks in late spring. A barn owl pair has been living in the DNR-built nest box inside a metal pole barn in southern Indiana almost every year for the last eight years.

Barn owls were once common in the Midwest, living in hollow trees and wooden barns, and hunting for meadow voles in hayfields, idle grain fields, pastures and other grasslands. But many wooden barns are being torn down, and few modern farms offer the land a barn owl needs for hunting.

Barn owls have a distinct heart-shaped face, dark eyes and white to golden-brown feathers. The goal of the webcam is promoting public interest in birds and raising awareness about efforts to support barn owls.

DNR’s Wildlife Diversity Program has been placing nest boxes for barn owls since 1984. The nest boxes, like the one the webcam owls use, give owls a safe place to raise their young. More information is online at

The barn owl webcam can be viewed anytime with an unlimited number of viewers at

The barn owl is one of more than 750 animal species, including many rare and endangered animals, supported by the Wildlife Diversity Program. It depends on donations to the DNR Nongame Fund, to which you can donate, at

And for updates on Indiana’s nongame wildlife, subscribe to an email list at

State parks’ frigid First Day hikes

I’m not as hardy as I used to be. When it comes to hiking: I like the distance short, the terrain flat and the temperature slightly more than my age. But arctic temperatures didn’t stop a bunch of dedicated hikers on Jan. 1.

Brutal temperatures couldn’t deter the more than 1,000 people who participated in a guided First Day hike at various Indiana State Park properties on Jan. 1. The combined distance of the 1,033 hikers totaled 1,158 miles.

The average high across Indiana for the day was 1 degree Fahrenheit, according to Angie Manuel, chief of interpretation for DNR Division of State Parks. “If I didn’t already know that Indiana State Parks had some of the most dedicated visitors, I sure knew it when 50 hikers joined me for a minus-7-degree prairie walk at Prophetstown State Park,” she said.

First Day hikes are a healthy way to start the year and a chance to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and connect with friends. The hikes are hosted each year by staff and volunteers at Indiana’s 32 state park properties and are part of a nationwide program promoted by America’s State Parks.

Hikes ranged in length from a half-mile to 4 miles. The types of hikes varied, too. Charlestown State Park hosted a night hike for viewing the Supermoon, and hikers at O’Bannon Woods State Park walked with one of the property’s resident oxen. Monroe Lake welcomed the most participants, with 196 people attending an event offering 3.7- and 1.3-mile run/walks.

Across the country, almost 32,000 visitors to state parks hiked a combined 70,200 miles.

“The First Day hikes are a means where park rangers, naturalists and volunteers can get people outside to connect with nature and history while beginning new, healthy lifestyles,” said Ellen Graham, First Day hikes coordinator and chief naturalist, Georgia State Parks, Recreation & Historic Sites.

First Day hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation state park in Milton, Mass.

And this is me reporting from my snug, 72-degree den!


The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments may contact Jack Spaulding by email at or by writing to him in care of this publication.