Calendar – Spring
March – April
The barn owl begins courtship in March or April and the long nesting period usually extends from May to September. Following mild winters nesting may begin earlier.
Established pairs will renew their bond by preening each other and by screeching and chasing around their territory. Young owls will be seeking mates; if their territory has become isolated without any corridors to lead them to other owls then they will be forced to remain solitary beacuse Barn owls tend to remain within their familiar territory. This isolation has been shown to be a serious threat to the maintenance of the barn owl population. Courtship continues when the female starts calling to her mate with snoring sounds, like an owlet begging for food. The male responds by bringing prey and mating follows.
The barn owl doesn’t make a nest as such, the place where the eggs will be laid is usually chosen from a roosting site which could be a ledge, tree hole,a beam in a building or some similar darkened location, the floor of which will be covered in pellets. Loss of nesting sites is a major problem although nest boxes can provide suitable alternatives. Just prior to the laying period the nest site is often strewn with food brought in by the male bird. This food surplus encourages the female to begin laying, secure in the knowledge that her mate is able to supply her with adequate quantities of food, since she is dependent on him for food throughout the first six to seven weeks of nesting. The eggs are chalky white in colour and almost round in shape. The clutch usually numbers between 4 and 7 (5 is the average) though there may be up to 13 eggs in years when prey is abundant, they are laid at intervals of about two days.
It is often assumed that the same pair of barn owls nest in a particular site year after year, but in fact the barn owl has a relatively short life span with few adults living beyond 3-4 years. It is the nesting site itself which is traditional and if vacated for any reason a new pair of owls will often move in.