Crow’s Nest: I Heart Owls

February 23, 2024

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

A barn owl that can't be released to the wild being shown to an audience

Photo: Daniel Barringer

Dawn White brought a couple owls and plenty of owl pellets (the undigestible material, fur and bones, they cough up after eating their prey) to our “I Heart Owls” program last weekend. Sponsored by the Cassandra O. and Dennis B. Lacey Performance Fund, this sold-out event was well attended despite the fresh snow that morning. Above, she shows off this barn owl—which cannot be released to the wild due to having been born in captivity to parents of unknown provenance; the Pennsylvania Game Commission doesn’t want to introduce unknown genetics to this regionally vulnerable species.

Participants sat at our lab tables and had the opportunity to pick apart the owl pellets an identify the various bones therein. Since barn owls exclusively eat mice, we were confident that the skulls, leg bones, ribs, etc. were from mice. We also learned about nesting sites and foraging needs and ways to protect this species which has declined in Pennsylvania over the last seven decades. You can learn more about the Pennsylvania Game Commission efforts to conserve this species here.