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  • Aditya Singh

The Brave Barn Owl

When the world sleeps, this bird awakes to hunt down dark forces like rats & mice, just like our superheroes – the same dark forces that make us shriek-at-sight and panic.


About:

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These are beautiful birds with a face that has a heart-shaped gold border to it & big black eyes. They have gold bordered creamy white speckled bodies with golden-brown wings that have variable amounts of silver on them. Their long legs are feathered to the feet & it looks like the bird is wearing socks. The banded tail looks like a fan in flight.

They are nocturnal and hunt silently at night. You won’t hear them flying – except occasional screeches here and there.

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Barn Owl pair – lady on the left. Ready on their perch for the night ahead.


Story Of The Owl & The Cloud:

It was late evening and I saw our Barn Owl take a perch in a nearby building.

Just then it started to thunder. The Barn Owl looked up, he saw a dark cloud high above. It seemed he thought “oh its another dark force – I can take it on” and screeched out loudly in response. After a few minutes of silence, the dark cloud thundered again. Our Barney howled back. This happened several times over the next half an hour. But then, Barney took the lead and screeched first. Suddenly as if the cloud had had enough, it gave up in defeat and began to cry. The teardrops were big, and the dark one vanished. Our unrelenting owl won.

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Took this photo in rain (note the big ‘teardrops’) and v. bad light. Our victorious Barn Owl is at the right of center. The white dot is his eye…


Barn Owls And Humans:

Like I said, they take on the dark forces and so are our best friends. But there are times when we humans get scared of them. Sometimes, they appear ghostly to some and at other times, their screech scares us. I have seen these things happen first hand. But please have a look – does it look scary to you?

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Close-up of our brave bird…


Threats:

An obvious threat comes from collisions with high-tension overhead cables.

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A young victim of collision…


Even though Barn Owls have an almost worldwide range, like all owls in India, they are threatened by trapping and hunting. I have mentioned this in my post on the Spotted Owlet. Another threat comes from us birders who accidentally flush them out of their hiding places to get good photos. They manage to get some photos but it leaves the bird in trouble. Owls get attacked by all the common birds around like crows, drongos and mynas which puts their life in danger. So we birders have to ensure that if such a thing happens, they are safely returned to their hideouts.


Another sad incident happened to the bird in flight. This was narrated by my birding guide, Mr. Sube Singh. This Barn Owl and his whole family of 20 lived in the vicinity of a farm. There was a change in ownership and the new owner had all of them killed overnight. Our bird being the only survivor.  The farmer was obviously ignorant of the fact that they are a farmer’s best friend.


The brave ones get startled by unnatural noises too. Just the other day, a really loud announcement over a microphone pre-dawn scared a Barn Owl. I saw him flying full speed away from the direction of the noise as they have very sensitive ears.

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