Athena, the American Barn Owl, at 47 days old.
Schlitz Audubon’s New Female Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
In May 2017, Schlitz Audubon welcomed Athena, a female American Barn Owl, into our Raptor Program!
Athena came to us at less than one month old. This timing was crucial in building confidence and experience that she will carry into adulthood. We immediately began socializing her to be comfortable interacting with humans in an educational setting. Her species grows incredibly quickly, and by two months old Athena grew to her adult size and form (pictured at left). Athena is named for the Greek Goddess of Wisdom.
Many Barn Owl habitats have been lost to development, farming, and urban sprawl. Additionally, their populations are faced with the threat of poisoning. Poisons that target rodents work their way up the food chain, killing the owls. Although endangered in parts of the Midwest, the Wisconsin DNR has stated that Barn Owls no longer nest in Wisconsin. Wisconsin DNR considers the state to be the northern limit of the species breeding range. In Wisconsin, Barn Owls are a Species of Special Concern, after having been de-listed from Endangered in 2014. Having a Barn Owl as an animal ambassador is important so that we can help people make the connection between the species’ necessary habitat and its dwindling population.
The majority of the birds in our Raptor Program have been rehabilitated rescue birds. Barn Owls, however, are difficult to come by in this way, due to their scarcity and the fact that they often die in the wild due to poisoning and deforestation. Athena was bred by World Bird Sanctuary specifically to be an educational bird with Schlitz Audubon. World Bird Sanctuary, located in the St. Louis area, has bred and released more than 1,000 Barn Owls into the wild. This organization is also permitted by US Fish and Wildlife to breed birds of prey for use in education programs at reputable institutions around the country.
Because Athena arrived with us as an owlet, she was able to start training for programs and flight at such a young age. Athena has a playful and calm disposition and is poised in social situations. She quickly became comfortable as one of the 17 birds in the Schlitz Audubon Raptor Program. Athena loves to perch on her trainers’ shoulder, pounce on tennis balls and other toys, as well as stare at her reflection in her water bowl.
Barn Owls live on six continents (every continent except Antarctica). They capture our imagination with their silent flight, heart-shaped white face and deep-set eyes, and unique shrieking call. Barn Owls live 2-4 years in the wild, although in captivity can reach up to 25 years.
American Barn Owl Facts
- 3.25 – 4 foot wing span.
- Males have a white chest while the females have a tan chest with spots.
- Nicknames: Ghost Owl, Sweetheart Owl, Hobgoblin Owl, Church Owl.
- Life span: 2 – 4 years in the wild. Can live up to 25 years in captivity.
- Range: Every continent except Antarctica. They are the farthest reaching owl species in the world.
- A Barn Owl may consume up to 1500 rodents in one year.
- “…its ability to locate prey by sound alone is the best of any animal that has ever been tested. It can catch mice in complete darkness in the lab, or hidden by vegetation or snow out in the real world.” – Cornell Lab of Ornithology