WASHINGTON, Pa. -- BOLIVAR (Westmoreland County)
For the first time in nearly a decade, a barn owl has been spotted living on a farm in Washington County, which is in western Pennsylvania.
Barn owls were once a common sight on Pennsylvania farms, but their numbers have been declining for years.
"While several barn owls nested in the state’s southwest corner during the first Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas, which covered the period of 1984-89, none were recorded in the area in the most recent Breeding Bird Atlas, which was conducted from 2004-09," a Game Commission news release states. "Loss of habitats, changes in farming practices, and loss of nest sites are the main reasons for the drop in barn owl numbers."
Officials say the owl is wearing a leg band, which helped biologist determine that it came from northeastern Ohio.
"This find provides more evidence that barn owls are very mobile and are capable of colonizing new sites where grassland habitat and nest sites are available," said Doug Gross, Game Commission ornithologist. :There really is no need to raise barn owls and release them someplace. If you have habitat, they will come; they are quite capable."
In 2005, the Game Commission began a Barn Owl Conservation Initiative to learn more about the state’s barn owls and to increase their numbers. Through this effort, the Game Commission identified more than 135 nest sites, mostly in the southeast and southcentral areas of the state. As part of the initiative, agency personnel banded hundreds of barn owls, primarily nestlings, and installed many nest boxes.