Barn owls are making the most of the Terra Nova Lands. See how nest boxes help to encourage breeding, while a banding program gives researchers a valuable tool to track and monitor the health of the owls, as the birds benefit from land use decisions. Barn Owls in Richmond are thriving in the open spaces of Terra Nova Rural Park. The park’s long grasses create habitat for small mammals… and that means lunch for owls.
Terra Nova Rural Park in Richmond is popular with gardeners and joggers during the day, but did you know that after dark, the night shift begins?
“Terra Nova is actually a destination resort for barn owls,” says Rich Kenny of the City of Richmond Parks Department. “So we have a lot of new barn owls coming in as well as the barn owls that are staying here. They have been living here for 100 or so years. They really utilized the grass fields that were created when the first settlers started doing agriculture in the area”
Richmond’s growing population brings changes to the barn owl habitat. “We are lucky that it is a species that had been able to learn to co-exist with us, explains Sofi Hindmarch, Environment Canada Wildlife Biologist consultant. “As long as we are able to give it a little bit of space, a little bit of green space, (it has) a place to live.”
“So, the barn owl nest box program was set up about 5 years ago in the city,” says Kenny. “The idea was just to offer barn owls an alternative nesting habitat. They naturally nest in holes in trees. And also in old buildings.”
With barn owls now breeding in the park, the City of Richmond is working with Environment Canada to monitor the owls.
“We plug the hole with a towel that’s got a rope wrapped around it,’ says Hindmarch. “Then I go up and I take one down at a time. We put a bag on their head, just to calm them down a bit, ’cause they are slightly surprised. Put a little band on it, .. a unique identifier, and then we carefully put them back up again. One by one.”
The banding is a way to keep track of the population.
“Now we have three pairs breeding in the park,” adds Rich Kenny. “So its definitely a success story and we are looking to expand the programme. (We are) really just trying to spark that initial interest in nature. A lot of people have no idea of the different wildlife animals that live in their neighborhood. Terra Nova park is a great place to engage people and teach them that the animals that live around them are amazing cool and should be protected.”