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The owl is a night bird that we seldom have the privilege of seeing. As we do not see it, we do not know its habits ... for example, a family of owls can capture more than a hundred rats and mice a week.
One way to identify them, even if we do not see them, is when we observe in some corner a cluster of what appear to be the depositions of some wild animal. But in reality, they are not depositions, but pellets.
Pellets are the mass of hair and bones that some birds, such as raptors or storks, expel through their mouths after swallowing their prey and that in the case that owls tend to accumulate at the foot of their nests or perches.
The shapes and size of the pellets allow the species to be identified, providing reliable proof of its presence. And both the rounded shape and the dark matte tone of those left no room for doubt. If we look closely and we are lucky, perhaps we can see the nest of the owl, even her, hidden.
Some connoisseurs know that the owl is the best ally in the field, since thanks to it they do not need to resort to the use of rodenticides or any trapping system to fight against rodent pests.
Winged rat poison
The use of this beautiful nocturnal raptor as a natural rodent controller is very widespread in rural areas. Barns, farms, industrial warehouses, country houses, even historical or religious buildings: simply place a nest box to favor the presence of the owl and wait for it to settle. From that moment the problems with rodents were over.
The barn owlTyto alba) usually settle in large open spaces with scattered innkeepers to establish their hunting territory: farmlands, meadows, marshes, but always in rural surroundings. They do not disdain the presence of man, it would even be said that they seek it, since they tend to occupy buildings of all kinds, including inhabited houses in the interior of towns (in the United States they call it "bell-tower owl" and in the United Kingdom "barn owl" ).
With a vision adapted to the night, your most developed sense is hearing.
Its unusual appearance and the peculiarity of its claim, which resembles the deep breath of a person, have enveloped the owl in an aura of mystery, making it the protagonist of all kinds of false rural legends, such as that they drank the oil of the ancient lamps or were able to penetrate walls.
Notes for identification
Thanks to its facial appearance, in the shape of a heart, white, and in which its black eyes stand out like two glass balls, the owl is the most unmistakable of our strigiform or nocturnal raptors.
Medium in size, with an elongated body and a voluminous head free of plumes, it has a thick and padded plumage of orange-brown color on the back, with gray tones and finely dotted with black and white. The underparts are pure white or orange (depending on phase) with black freckles.
Its powerful, well-muscled claws are equipped with fine, steely nails that are fixed on four fingers with a wide range of mobility. Thanks to this characteristic, the owl can have two in front and two behind to seize its prey with force.
Another characteristic of its biological equipment, adapted to the silence of the night, is the deflected edge of its wing feathers, a condition that allows it to fly stealthily. The wide turn of its head, a vision adapted to the night, and a keen hearing, complete the benefits of one of the great predators of rodents of the Iberian fauna.
It measures 35 cm, has a wingspan (the distance from tip to wing tip) of 80 cm and weighs about half a kilo.
The owl's heat begins at the end of February and incubation (between 4 and 6 eggs) takes place between March and April. Chickens, like cotton balls but already with the characteristic facial heart, usually prowl around the nest until July.
Once they complete their development and become emancipated, the young people will settle in a new territory where, if they are not disturbed, they will settle for life. The couple remains together for life. They can live for more than 20 years, ridding us of thousands and thousands of rodents.
A protected species, barn owl populations are collapsing throughout Spain (up to 50% in some communities), so it is necessary that we all contribute to its conservation and respect both its presence and the health of its habitats.
Spanish: common lechuza
Euskara: Hontza zuria
English: barn owl