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North Dakota Barn Owls

Barn Owls in North Dakota

Barn-Owl-8869Barn Owls are cited as uncommon in North Dakota. States to the south, such as Utah, Wyoming, and South Dakota, are frequently referred to as the “northern limit of the barn owl’s range” in the central United States, however barn owls don’t read the literature and are surprising in their penchant for expanding their range, mainly due to the wide dispersals in random directions that the newly fledged young make in the fall. So, birds from South Dakota and other states make their way into North Dakota each autumn and, in years of mild winters, can make it through to spring, find a mate, and breed successfully.

In one recent year, there were 25 barn owl sightings in the state, and several active nests. Since these birds are highly secretive and active almost exclusively at night, there are likely many more barn owls than are seen.

Severe winters, especially those with heavy snowfall, set North Dakota barn owl populations back, but then the birds rebound in years that are mild.

N.D. grasslands provide excellent habitat for barn owls

N.D. grasslands provide excellent habitat for barn owls

Barn Owl Habitat in North Dakota

The extensive grasslands of the state provide excellent habitat and, as in South Dakota, the birds likely dig their own burrows in the soft substrate of river banks and dunes due to a scarcity of nesting cavities. Good sites in the state for installation of nest boxes would be natural grasslands, wetlands, and fields of hay, wheat, and rye.