Delaware is a perfect example of how each state seems to have its own dynamic in terms of barn owl populations. Biologist Wayne Lehman, Division
Barn owls most common along Delaware Bay
of Fish and Wildlife, reports that barn owls are found primarily along the coastal salt marshes where their numbers are excellent. He attributes nest boxes to being responsible for a good percentage of successful breeding sites. In the rest of the state, dense human populations, and the relatively sterile environments of soy, corn, and potatoes tend to keep barn owl numbers low.
Plenty of research on barn owls in Delaware has been conducted. Since 1996, Delaware biologists have banded 618 barn owls, including young from 135 nests. In addition, they have captured banded birds from as far away as Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, and birds banded in Delaware have been captured regularly in New Jersey. So, the population of barn owls moves around dynamically, particularly in the fall and spring.
A companion study to the Delaware Fish and Wildlife is being conducted by the Barn Owl Research Foundation across the Delaware River in New Jersey, underway since 1980.
Delaware’s salt marshes hold good populations
Despite low owl numbers in the rest of the state, residents who live amid good habitat – hayfields, grasslands, and marsh – would be contributing to the conservation of barn owls by installing nest boxes.
Knowing where barn owls are living is of great interest to researchers. If you see a barn owl in Delaware let Jean Woods know so she can add this data to Delaware’s Breeding Bird Atlas. Woods is the curator of birds for the Delaware Museum of Natural History. Contact her at 658-9111, ext. 314 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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