Barn owls

Barn owl
Pastel sketch by M. Sloan

It was late. Downtown. And a pale shadow soared silently overhead.

It was only the flash of unfurled white wings that caught our attention. We looked up just in time to see an owl landing on a parapet of city hall.

We heard small papery cries. Then, in another flash, the owl sped away. After a bit, two small faces looked down at us, as curious about us as we were about them.

They were baby barn owls, probably the most human looking of all birds. Right then and there I fell in love with them.

ARKive video - Barn owl in flight

Barn owls haven’t always been loved. People have believed (still believe!) all sorts of malicious things about owls: they’re harbingers of death, witches, and bad weather. Barn owls have screetchy voices that creep people out. They look like ghosts flying around in the dark. So we humans have hunted and persecuted them over the years.  We build cities over their roaming grounds. Like other animals that aren’t human, they’ve been in decline.

But they eat prodigious amounts of rats and squirrels. They’re good critters to have around. (I don’t know about your town, but in ours, we could sure use some help with rodent control.)

And clearly, barn owls will live in a mixed suburban setting (we’ve got lots of trees, and open space and green belts flanking the megalopolis).  But the birds need nesting places. I would love to put up an owl box in my garden.

Barn owls won’t steal your babies, your money, or your soul (I’m not so sure about chickens, though. Some say yes, some say no. Does anyone know for sure?). According to The Owl Pages, “the Inuit see the Owl as a source of guidance and help.” If you have to believe something about owls, believe this Inuit tale. And believe that barn owls are incredible creatures to see as they ghost their way through the night.

Other owl box sites: