Injured BNOW chick ID

05/19/11 Last night was able to read the band on the chick with the leg situation. You may recall they were all banded with the same size band so numbers were all the same except the last digit. Thanks to jmm digging thru past comments (and saving me from going thru notes) we can see that age estimates corresponded to band # in that youngest ended in 51 and oldest 55. The chick in question is 53, right in the middle. This is important to know and a reason we band. Good to know where it is in the age hierarchy and if and when this chick moves on or dies and is recaptured or found it might tell us a lot about what effect the injury had, if any. Pete

Question to ponder

05/10/11 The following comments were not lost on me, were good ones, and I will respond as soon as I can. Just want you to know I’m paying attention and appreciate any and all questions and comments. To me the comment portion of this site is about sharing and learning. Anything goes as long as it’s respectful and thoughtful. The only comments I’ll delete are those which have foul language or are spam (which thankfully have been few). Otherwise, you talk owls, I’m listening – and I hope everyone else is too and doesn’t hesitate to weigh in. Pete


03-25-11 pre Banding Day on 03-26-11

Banding tomorrow will be webcast around 1PM PST*. Hope you can tune in.  But please understand that if we get a lot of folks tuning in it may push the servers beyond what they can take and, if so, some may see “Server busy, please try later”.  May not happen but if it does I apologize in advance.  It’s really hard to gauge how many want to watch and when, what I need to do to make sure everyone can, and how to pay for it.  But I’m peddling as fast as I can.  Thanks.  Pete

*Between 12:30 and 1PM I will bring out the GHOW to talk about owl life history.  I should be able to do this on the webcast.  So you might want to tune in a little earlier than 1PM.


Friendly reminder

Support this WebcamThis is coming to you live from Starr Ranch and it ain’t part of your cable TV package… I work really hard to keep both cams going and to have a spam free area to post your comments (which are great!). And please remember that these BNOW cams are just part of what we do and offer here at Starr Ranch. So if you like watching and learning here, please consider helping us out. Thanks. Pete

Visiting Starr Ranch

Starr Ranch, due to access and liability issues, to say nothing of a very small FT staff (Sandy, Scott and me) cannot accommodate  “drop in” visitation.  However, we offer a lot of opportunities for folks to be here.  Please check out our home page for listings of our events, programs for kids and adults, and opportunities for volunteering. Or email us at if you want to get email alerts about upcoming opportunities.  Pete

Possible need to temp shut down comments

IMPORTANT: Traffic to our website has increased significantly (unrelated to bandwidth used viewing the cams) and is overloading the CPU allotment we have from our web host.  So I need to try some things to isolate the problem.  This will include disabling comments for a period to see if this is the reason.  If I can I will post here the time period I will do this.

Please be patient and understand that if I don’t do this the entire site might go down until I find a solution.  This is purely a hardware/software/hosting issue and has nothing to do with curtailing any dialog.  I would never do that.  The comments are an extremely important part of learning and viewing experience we are trying very hard to provide.  Thanks for understanding.  Pete

Cam Problems

03/07/11 PTZ fixed.  Sorry it was down so long.  Just a lot of other stuff going on at Starr Ranch and I was just now able to get to it.  Pete

03/06/11 The PTZ (right) cam has a problem with the wiring that controls it – I’m pretty sure a pocket gopher chewed through it somewhere but the spots I’ve looked at so far are OK.  But I will find and fix.  Hopefully tomorrow morning.  In the meantime it will be offline.  Thanks for understanding.  Pete

03/05/11 5PM PST When it rains it pours… I just noticed come heavy duty pocket gopher chewing on the PTZ cable.  Could be responsible for PTZ cam doing its random “upside down” thing.  Will work on fixing tomorrow.  Hopefully some temp fixes will get us thru the night and I’ll also have the left cam back up.  Pete

03/05/11  3PM PST A limb fell from the eucalyptus tree taking down the cable for the left cam.  I can fix but will have to wait until tonight when the female takes off.  In the meantime, enjoy Bell Creek on a gorgeous day at Starr Ranch.  Pete

PTX cam fogged

02/26/11 PTZ cam lens is fogged up. Cleaned lens around 6:30PM PST but will have to wait for moisture to evaporate, on inside, which I think it will. If not, I’ll figure out something else to keep the view as good as can be. Pete

Female and chicks as chicks get older

Observation:  Around 7:10PM PST 2/25/11 female’s out and chicks are alone, huddled together.  The chicks, especially the older ones, are getting big enough to stay warm (which includes huddling together) for a while on their own and the female needs to start joining the male in hunting to feed appetites that are rapidly growing.  She will know when to come back in (successful or not in hunting) if the chicks need brooding.  Won’t be long before she’s out a lot more.  Pete

Server change

Around 10AM PST today (2/24/11) we’re going to switch servers for both cams.  Shouldn’t take long, but you will see one or both go dark.  Please be patient.  We’re doing this because more and more of you are watching and current servers can’t keep up.  And I want to do what ever I can to try to make sure you all have access.  However, and as you might expect, this costs more money.  I’m working on several fronts to reduce cost yet keep the quality as high as possible.  But in meantime, and actually all the time, please consider helping out.  I’m pretty sure I can get expenses down, but this site will never be something I can say costs nothing.  Thanks.  Pete

Huell Howser Show on Starr Ranch

Huell Howser’s KCET LA show “Visiting…” will have a half hour on Starr Ranch airing 7:30PM on March 2nd and 10th. Tune in to see more of what goes on here and also get some “behind the scenes” about the BNOWs.  Huell also said he was going to air this show in about a month on his “California Gold” show, which can be watched throughout California.  Pete

Commenting Hints

When commenting on or responding to a post click the “Reply” link that’s associated with that post – there’s one with every post.  It will keep your comment/response connected to what you’re replying to.   And will help everyone know what you’re talking about.

If you want to reference a post, just right click and copy the “Permalink” that every post has.  This is very handy when someone asks a question and you find a very old post that answered it.  You can simply paste the  “permalink” in your comment.  Pete

2011 Laying/Hatching

First clutch:

Egg#1 01/07/11 ~7:30AM Hatched ~12:30AM 02/07/11
Egg#2 01/09/11 ~7:30AM Seen ~ 2:00AM 02/09/11
Egg#3 01/11/11 ~8:40AM Hatched ~ 2:20AM 02/11/11
Egg#4 01/13/11 ~7:20AM Hatched ~ 5:12PM 02/12/11
Egg#5 01/15/11 ~8:05AM
Egg#6 01/17/11 ~8:10AM
Egg#7 01/19/11 ~11:00AM

02/08/11 Cam outage

02/08/11 It turned out we maxed out the server – there were 350+ viewers (!).  So we are investigating newer hardware or better, cost saving ways to provide a more reliable video feed.  In meantime I had to reduce frame rate – which you shouldn’t notice much – so we could keep up with the demand.  In any case, this is just one reason we ask for your support.  Providing this cam cost money that we have to raise.  Thanks.  Pete

Why should I support Starr Ranch and this cam?

This is not a commercial site, which means we depend upon the generosity of people like you to keep the camera on, and this remarkable educational resource available for the world to enjoy. Moreover, donations fund all the other important work we do here at the Audubon Starr Ranch Sanctuary. So if you like the webcam, or anything else at Starr Ranch, please consider helping us out. Any contribution is deeply appreciated. And they are all tax-deductible. We are a 501(c)(3) non profit.

Support this Webcam

Reorganized Starr Ranch Barn Owl Page 02/07/11

Click the title to see this entire post.

In an effort to make this site more user friendly and less busy, we recently reorganized it. In general, the views and ability to post and/or reply to comments has not changed at all. However, here are a few things about what has changed:

-You can comment while watching the video feeds.
-“Search this site…” searches everything EXCEPT comments made below the video feeds. Gretchen’s working on trying to apply it to these also.
-If you go back to previous pages to read older comments the video feeds will not be there. After all, we figured you’re reading and scrolling, not watching. In the past while you’re reading with the video’s still on the page you were using bandwidth even if you scrolled the video off the screen. Now you have to go to the most current page to restart videos.
-An FAQ page is now available in the left column with key words to hopefully help you quickly find the answer you’re looking for.
-If you have a question that you think would be good to have included in the FAQs please email it to and I’ll try to include ASAP. In fact, feel free to email with any comments or questions.
-If you go to a FAQ and it has more info that isn’t shown, click on the title of the FAQ if you want to read more.
-If you responded to my request to take a time slot to watch these birds and record data (formally in left hand column), I still have your info. Just haven’t been able to figure out how to do this so that it works well and provides useful info.

-Many thanks to Garrison, Gretchen, Jill, Lisa, Martin, and Trish for their various contributions to this redesign.

Important: I want to make sure that everyone understands that I will not intervene should anything occur that might naturally cause this nest to fail. This includes predators, bees, chicks not getting enough food, etc. We are able to watch what goes on at this nest because there are cameras there that have no affect on their behavior. I feel very strongly that this doesn’t come with it the right to manipulate what we see. These are wild birds in a wild situation. Thanks.


What do we know about the adults?

We don’t have any info on the adults using this cavity prior to 2008. In 2009 the male and female were banded, but we were unable to read the band on the female, so don’t know her history. However, the male was captured that season and fitted with a color band on left leg (black with a white ‘87′). The current female, who raised at least three clutches (a group of eggs laid in a nest at one time) in the cavity, was banded as at least a two-year old on 03/07/07 approximately 300 yards south of the cavity. The current male is at least 9 years old, having been banded as at least a three-year old on 04/07/06, also approximately 300 yards south of the cavity . He sired the chicks in 2010 but is not the same male as 2009 male. (Info as of Jan, 28 2012)

Do the owls have names?

We don’t name these owls for a couple of reasons. 1)These are truly wild birds (not domestic and not pets) so I feel names are probably not appropriate. 2)When we are watching activity, especially of chicks, names are very difficult to keep straight as opposed to #1, #2, etc. (given in the order they hatched). For the adults, “Female” and “Male” work best and “Mrs.” and “Mr.”, etc. also OK.

However, I have no problem if anyone wants to give them names. Just keep in mind that someone new to the site will not know who you’re talking about if you comment using a name whereas “Female”, “Male”, “Chick#X”, etc. leaves no doubt as to which one you are talking about.

What and where is the cavity?

The cavity is in a huge Eucalyptus tree where a limb “ripped out” about 20 years ago, pulling some of the inside of the tree with it. It is at least 2 feet deep and 18″ across with more room off to the back left. It is also hollow above (sometimes adults or chicks go up there), but we do not know how far up it goes.

It is about 40 feet up and we have a permanent ladder installed to make frequent climbs efficient. In theory, predators such as snakes or raccoons can enter the cavity, but to date viewers have not seen anything attempt to attack the eggs or chicks. Viewers have seen an occasional hummingbird flutter in.

Cavity location : 33°37’46.18?N,117°33’15.12?W in Google Earth or most other internet mapping sites.

How long do barn owls live?

From banding data, wild BNOWs live up to 12-15 years. If you are interested in longevity of other birds check out the Banding Lab’s Longevity Records. But more important, please understand that survival rates of BNOWs offspring (and this applies to all birds in general season to season) is extremely low – perhaps 5-10% at best make it to adulthood and breeding. Here’s why: Unlike humans who produce a few offspring (let’s say 1-6) over the course of their entire life time, birds produce these numbers of offspring numbers EVERY YEAR, many starting at their first year of adulthood which can be 1 year old. In the case of a BNOW pair, who for the sake of example might live ten years, they have the potential to produce 5-10 offspring EVERY YEAR over NINE years. Let’s say they average six/year. This means by the time they die they will have produced 9 X 6 = 42 young to replace the two of them. There is simply not enough room on the planet to accommodate all, especially given that there are millions and millions of birds doing the same thing every single year.

I don’t see owls – where are they?

When incubating eggs, the female will stay in the cavity for most of the night, leaving occasionally for reasons not totally clear to us. The male is often out all night hunting and will return with prey. The male may or may not spend the day in the cavity. If not, he will roost in a nearby tree, as many BNOWs do. As chicks hatch and grow, both adults will roost outside of the cavity during the day, and deliver food at night. Once chicks fledge, the cavity may go unused for sometime until this pair, or another pair, decide to use it again for roosting and breeding. However, chicks often use the cavity to roost during the day for several weeks after they fledge.

I want to learn more about the owls’ leg bands

Among other things, banding birds allows us to gain knowledge of how long they live and where they live and/or migrate.  Much of data that’s gathered from banded birds can come from band numbers read from birds that are found dead or captured and released.  However, the bands on birds the size of these owls can often be read with a spotting scope or, in this case, a zoom camera.

Birdbanding was formally regulated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, but now by the USGS.  You must have a permit to band birds and this is also regulated by USGS.  Every band has a unique # on it and all bands are tracked in a database managed by USGS.  In addition, the proper band sizes are known and, in most cases, every individual of a particular species will wear the same sized band.  Last, raptor (birds of prey) chicks grow so rapidly that often by the time they are two weeks old their legs are large enough to comfortably wear and adult sized band

The adult BNOWs currently using the cavity have a US Fish & Wildlife Service aluminum leg band on their right leg. The male also has a “Monel” brand leg band on his left leg. Monel bands normally have the bander’s name and telephone number and a unique number.  It has been found that people will tend to more often report a band if there is a name and local telephone # on it.  Young BNOWs that hatch in this cavity will get a single aluminum band btw 2-6 weeks of age.  They normally fledge around 7.5-8 weeks.

If you find a bird with a band you can report it online or call the 800 # found on more recent bands.  In the past reporting was done by mail and you could simply send the info to “Bird Band, Laurel, MD”.  By any method, the Bird Banding Lab (BBL) will get back to you with information about when and where the bird was originally banded.

What sounds do barn owls make?

Barn owls produce a variety of vocalizations, although the ‘meaning’ of them is not always clear. For example, you may hear the female ‘rasping’ repeatedly, particularly before she produces and starts incubating eggs, but we do not know what, if anything, is being communicated. BNOWs also hiss and bill-snap when threatened.  They do not “hoot”.  Search Youtube for examples of BNOW sounds.

What is a clutch, and how big are they?

BNOWs lay one to up to a dozen or more eggs/year/per clutch (sometimes they have more than one clutch/year). A ‘clutch’ is a group of eggs laid in a nest at one time. Larger clutches sometimes result in not all chicks surviving. Two common reasons for this: 1) Not all the eggs always hatch. 2) When the female lays the first egg she begin incubating it, meaning development begins. It takes her 1.5 to 2 days to lay the next egg. So, for example, if she lays 7 eggs, it may have taken her two weeks to lay them all. They will hatch accordingly, each one after approximately 30 days. This means by the time egg #7 hatches, egg #1 (if it hatched) will already have 2 weeks of development under its belt. BNOW chicks can fly at around 8 weeks, so 2 weeks is a lot of development time and younger chicks are sometimes not strong enough to compete with larger, older siblings for food.

What is a pellet?

BNOWs ‘cast’ or regurgitate undigested parts of their food as a mass or pellet. A pellet is mostly comprised of fur and bones, and previously cast pellets can often be seen on the floor of the cavity as small, dark lumps.  You can also find owl pellets under the trees that they roost in.  Analyzing pellets can also tell you what they’ve been eating because you can identify prey species by skulls, bones and/or fur.

What do barn owls eat?

Barn owls eat a variety of vertebrates. Here, most are rodents, such as wood rats, mice or pocket gophers. For a list of all mammals found at Starr Ranch, see here. The adult female will bite off parts for the youngest chicks, but within 7-10 days chicks will rip off bits of prey on their own. By two weeks of age, they’ll consume a whole animal, as long as it is a small enough – such as a mouse.

Recent history of the cavity

2008 clutches and earlier: This cavity has been in existence for perhaps 20+ years. A large limb fell ripping out the inside of the tree to create it. It is unknown how long BNOWs have used it. However, we have banded chicks from this cavity for at least the last 8-10 years. The first cam went up around 2007 and was simply watched here at Starr Ranch. Webcam viewing began around 2008. In 2008 there were 5 eggs. The first 2 hatched several days ahead of 3, 4,and 5. and 3-5 didn’t make it.

2009: Info coming soon.

2010 clutches:
First clutch:
(Laying, Hatching, Band#)
Egg 1 – 01/02/2010 11:00, Hatch 02/03/2010 06:15, 907-04043 #1
Egg 2 – 01/04/2010 10:30, Hatch 02/04/2010 09:30, 907-04040 #2
Egg 3 – 01/06/2010 15:30, Hatch 02/07/2010 03:00, 907-04044 #3
Egg 4 – 01/09/2010 06:30, Hatch 02/09/2010 03:15, 907-04041 #4
Egg 5 – 01/11/2010 11:00, Hatch 02/12/2010 16:30, 907-04042 #5
These two did not survive:
Egg 6 – 01/13/2010, 17:30, Hatch 02/13/2010 08:30
Egg 7 – 01/16/2010, 11:00, Hatch 02/16/2010 01:45
Other 5 chicks all fledged.

Second clutch:
Egg 1 05/21/2010 08:00
Egg 2 05/23/2010 09:00
Egg 3 05/25/2010 01:00
Egg 4 05/28/2010 04:00
Three eggs hatched and all three chicks fledged in August. [top]

First clutch:
Egg#1 01/07/11 ~7:30AM  Hatched ~12:30AM 02/07/11
Egg#2 01/09/11 ~7:30AM  Seen ~ 2:00AM 02/09/11
Egg#3 01/11/11 ~8:40AM  Hatched ~ 2:20AM 02/11/11
Egg#4 01/13/11 ~7:20AM
Egg#5 01/15/11 ~8:05AM
Egg#6 01/17/11 ~8:10AM
Egg#7 01/19/11 ~11:00AM