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Barn Owl Conservation Initiative

Barn Owl Boxes

Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are seeking information on barn owl sightings throughout the state. Barn owls have been in decline for several decades, and is one of the Game Commission's target species for its Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Yet, working with landowners, Game Commission biologists believe that barn owls have great management and recovery potential throughout the state, especially in the southern portions of Pennsylvania.

The Game Commission has developed a Barn Owl Conservation Initiative to help in the conservation and potential recovery of this species. The initiative's goal is to compile existing information on barn owl locations, including nest sites and incidental occurrences, as well as document new sites and sightings.

The objective is to focus on habitat issues by assessing the foraging, nesting and roosting habitats where known barn owls exist or have existed in the past. The agency is looking for cooperation and participation in this important effort.

After initial data is compiled, biologists will be able to determine where conservation initiatives should be directed. Those initiatives may include erecting nest boxes in suitable habitat and documenting productivity. Education and outreach also would be included to inform farmers, other landowners and the general public about the importance and benefits of this species.

Barn owls stand about 10-15 inches tall and have a wingspan of 41-47 inches. Their distinctive long heart-shaped facial disk has caused this owl to be referred to as the "monkey-faced owl." They have a nearly pure-white to dusky breast with small spots, small dark eyes, and have a hissing or scream-like vocalization. They are found in agricultural fields, grasslands, and other open areas. They nest in cavities of large dead trees, rock crevices and even burrows in riverbanks. More often, as their name implies, they nest in barns, silos, abandoned buildings and artificial nest boxes. Because barn owls feed primarily on rodents, they are beneficial to farmers. An average family of barn owls can consume up to 3,000 rodents during the course of the breeding season.

To determine if you have a barn owl on your property, look in barns, silos, abandoned buildings and below possible roost sites for regurgitated owl pellets, which are dense pellets of undigested fur and bone about one to two inches long. Also, after dark, listen for long hissing shrieks, which are very different from the typical "hoots" of most owls.

If you are aware of any barn owls in your area, are interested in helping construct barn owl nest boxes, or would like more information on barn owls, please contact the following:

    Northwest: Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Warren counties - RWD Biologist Stacy Wolbert at 814-226-4348 or stwolbert@pa.gov. Wolbert also can be reached through the Game Commission Northwest Region Office at 814-432-3187 or by mail to P.O. Box 31, Franklin, PA 16323.

    Northcentral: Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga and Union counties - RWD Biologist Mario Giazzon at mgiazzon@pa.gov or at the Northcentral Region Office at 570-398-4744 or by mail at P.O. Box 5038, Jersey Shore, PA 17740.

    Northeast: Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties - RWD Biologist Richard Fritsky at 570-879-2575 or rfritsky@pa.gov. Fritsky also can be reached through the Game Commission Northeast Region Office at 570-675-1143 or by mail to 3917 Memorial Highway, Dallas, PA 18612.

    Southeast: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Schuylkill and York counties - RWD Biologist Dan Mummert at 717-626-0031 or dmummert@pa.gov. Mummert also can be reached through the Game Commission Southeast Region Office by calling 610-926-3136 or mailing to 448 Snyder Road, Reading, PA 19605.

    Southcentral: Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry and Snyder counties - RWD Biologist Clayton Lutz cllutz@pa.gov. Lutz be reached through the Game Commission Southcentral Region Office at 814-643-1831 or mail to 8627 William Penn Highway, Huntingdon, PA 16652.

    Southwest: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties - RWD Biologist Tammy Colt at 724-238-4064 or tcolt@pa.gov. Game Commission Southwest Region Office at 724-238-9523 or by mail to 4820 Route 711, Bolivar, PA 15923.

Created in 1895 as an independent state agency, the Game Commission is responsible for conserving and managing all wild birds and mammals in the Commonwealth, establishing hunting seasons and bag limits, enforcing hunting and trapping laws, and managing habitat on the 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands it has purchased over the years with hunting and furtaking license dollars to safeguard wildlife habitat. The agency also conducts numerous wildlife conservation programs for schools, civic organizations and sportsmen's clubs.

The Game Commission does not receive any general state taxpayer dollars for its annual operating budget. The agency is funded by license sales revenues; the state's share of the federal Pittman-Robertson program, which is an excise tax collected through the sale of sporting arms and ammunition; and monies from the sale of oil, gas, coal, timber and minerals derived from State Game Lands.

Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Ave, Harrisburg Pennsylvania 17110-9797