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Barn Owls in Connecticut
Barn owls have always been uncommon to rare in Connecticut due to the state’s harsh winters. They are principally found along the coast and within the large river valleys of the state. Breeding has been confirmed in coastal areas and near Middletown, 30 miles in from the coast, where there is an active monitoring and nest box program. The already low Connecticut population is declining from habitat loss as reforestation encroaches on grasslands and the numbers of small farms dwindle. Biologist Laura Saucier, who monitors barn owls for the state, says that they typically find less than five occurrences each season and that most nests are within a few miles of the coast. That said, there are always more barn owls than detected, and the fact that Middletown, near the center of the state, hosts barn owls, raises the possibility that others exist in counties not being monitored.
History of the barn owl in Connecticut: The barn owl has always occurred in low numbers in Connecticut due to the state’s northern latitude and deep winter snows which prevent the owls from grabbing their prey beneath the surface. Historic records from the late 1800’s indicate the bird was considered a rare breeder in the state then, with records from coastal areas such as Stratford, Madison, Stamford, Leesville, and New London County. But there were also inland sites along the Connecticut River such as Portland and East Hartford as well sites further west such as Litchfield and Winsted, where one pair in an abandoned factory produced 6 young in 1892 and 7 eggs in 1893. As low as the population was in the nineteenth century, it is undoubtedly lower today.
Diet and Breeding in Connecticut
Barn owls eat mainly voles and shrews in Connecticut. Breeding occurs April through August.
Installing Barn Owl Nest Boxes in Connecticut
Nest boxes would best be installed within ten miles of the coast, or in the Middletown area where barn owls have been known to breed. Any sightings of barn owls should be reported to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection at 860-424-3000.