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Living the Wild Life

The Barn Owl

The Barn Owl is one of the best known of our three species of resident owl (the others being the Long-eared Owl and the Short-eared Owl). They are renowned for their keen eyesight, however they also posses excellent hearing and this is how they pinpoint the position of their prey in complete darkness. One of the most distinctive features is their heart shaped facial disc. This acts like a parabolic dish and is responsible for the owl's incredibly sensitive hearing, which can locate a small mouse or vole in the undergrowth from just its very subtle rustlings.

Barn Owls are primarily small mammal specialists. They also have a very low acid content in their stomach and therefore are unable to break down the hard parts of their prey such as the bones, teeth, skulls and hair, which they expel in the form of pellets. These pellets are full of information and by breaking them open and identifying the prey remains within, its possible to build up a very accurate picture of what the owl has been feeding on, such as Wood mice, Brown Rats, Pygmy Shrews, and House Mice as well as the recently introduced Bank Vole.

If you would like more information on any of the small mammals and insects featured in this week's programme click on the links below:
www.birdwatchireland.ie
donegal-wildlife.blogspot.com
www.eaglesflying.com/AboutUs.htm
www.ucc.ie/en
www.nuigalway.ie/zoology

 

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