Barn Owls of Mississippi
With a large cattle and hay industry, extensive rice production, numerous poultry farms, and southeastern saltwater marshes, Mississippi possesses excellent barn owl habitat in many areas of the state.
Although the Mississippi State Department of Wildlife has conducted no in-depth studies, and Turcotte and Watts in The Birds of Mississippi (1999) list it as a rare to uncommon resident, interviews of wildlife rehabilitators in north, central, and southern Mississippi reveal the barn owl to be highly common. It ranked as either the most common, or second most common owl brought in (the barred owl and great horned owl being the others).
The barn owl’s most common nesting site in the state is reported by rehabbers to be along the edges of woods, either in deer blinds, or trees (especially native locusts which split to create sizable cavities).
With the entire southern third and the eastern half of the state mostly covered in forests, barn owls are concentrated in areas of agriculture in these portions of the state. The north central counties, with less forest, and more hay and cattle, as well as the eleven-county rice-growing area in the northwest, likely support good populations of barn owls.
Barn Owl Potential in Mississippi Rice Fields
Rice is farmed intensively with few trees left standing and few places for barn owls to nest. But with dense populations of marsh rice rats consuming significant amounts of the harvest, rice farms in the state could well benefit from barn owl nest box programs. Barn owls would easily detect and inhabit nest boxes in these fields that contain so many rodents.