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Remembering Barney | The Life-Story of A Barn Owl

Barney was one of my favourite owls here at Fotherdale. He had lived here for more than years but sadly, on the 23rd of October, I saw him for what would be the last time.

What Happened to Barney?
I don’t expect I will ever know what happened to Barney. He may have sustained one too many attacks, he certainly had a great many clashes with the tawny owls that also live here during his time, or he could have been hit by a vehicle. Alternatively, he may simply have been his time. At four years old, this barn owl had already reached the average lifespan for a wild barn owl.

Barney’s Life Story – The Beginning

Barney first appeared here at Fotherdale in 2017. He was quick to find a mate and the pair settled in a nest box I had made out of an old elm stump. The box was rigged with cameras and I was able to follow them through the first season as they courted and prepared the nest for their first clutch of barn owl chicks. The cameras gave me a secret view into their lives as thy raised this clutch of four owl chicks.

Barney’s Story – Becoming a Foster Parent

Barney turned out not only to be an excellent father, hunting and feeding his clutch with great diligence, but he also turned to be a good foster parent too and happily also fed four more barn owl chicks after I placed these foundlings into his nest.

Barney’s Story – Meeting Gylfie

Sadly Barney lost his first mate after she disappeared from the garden at the end of 2017, but this resilient barn owl soon found a new partner, a new female on the scene that we named Gylfie. Again, Barney chose to nest in the Elm Stump and I was able to follow the action via my hidden cameras throughout the 2018 breeding season and see Barney and Gylfie begin what would become a three-year partnership.

Barney’s Story – An Attentive Lover

Bareny was an attentive lover. As his owl relationship blossomed it was evident he would do anything to provide for Gylfie, even fighting off tawny owls on the feeding post, which is no mean feat for a barn owl since the species is much smaller in size.

His hard work paid off and soon Gylfie had laid the pair’s first clutch, three beautiful white barn owl eggs! It was a joy to watch the pair as they cared for their chicks well and before long these young owlets were ready to fledge.

Barney’s Story – Another Successful Breeding Year

As the next barn owl breeding season came around, Barney and Gylfie began courting again, and I watched the drama unfold as the pair had another clutch. This time they had four eggs, but sadly only three of the chicks hatched successfully.

Nevertheless the owlets quickly grew and we had some fabulous views of their first flights. This is my favourite moment as the owls venture to the nest entrance for the first time. Follow their story here:

Barney’s Story – A Double Brood

As this first brood was fledging from Elm Stump, I noticed that Gylfie was also sitting on a new clutch of eggs over in my Sycamore Stump nest box. This double brood was a first for any barn owls living here at Fotherdale.

Barney’s Story – A Challenging Year

2020 turned out to be a challenging year for this barn owl pair, as it was for all of us, They headed back to Elm Stump to bring up a new brood, but sadly out of three eggs, only one survived. My cameras filmed the moment Barney discovered a chick that had been unable to hatch and he seemed to mourn the loss.

I named the surviving chick Solo. An only chick, she grew fast. Click here to read her story:

Barney’s Story – Another 2nd Brood

Meanwhile, Barney and Gylfie prepared for a second brood. This was unusual as Solo hadn’t yet fledged and I was intrigued to see what might happen. Unusually, Solo even took a turn brooding the eggs. As Gylfie continued to incubate. I noticed at this time that Barney was a bit put out, as Solo took advantage of food meant for his brooding partner.

Then disaster struck. After a stormy weekend, a hungry Solo undertook a nest raid. Stealing food from her mother’s beak, before grabbing the largest chick in the brood! Gylfie was torn between her maternal instincts for her grownup daughter and the tiny owl chick. Solo killed the owl chick, grabbing it by the neck. Gylfie was close behind her, chasing Solo from the nest. Gylfie returned to her two remaining chicks followed by Barney who seemed confused, looking for the lost chick.

Thankfully, the two remaining owl chicks, Hans and Grete, were unharmed. Barney provided for them well. He even attempted to feed them when Gylfie was away! Soon, Hans and Grete were soon ready to fledge. Barney truly was an incredible barn owl, and fantastic father.

In his time with us here at Fotherdale, Barney fathered a total of 15 chicks, and helped to raise 5 more surrogate chicks too! It truly was an honour to be a part of his life here.

But as one chapter draws to a close another opens and I’m delighted that Gylfie has now found a new mate Finn. Click here to read his story:

Watch Barney’s Eulogy Here

Click on the arrow in the image below to watch a short film I made about Barney’s story.

Read More

You can watch the barn owls of Fotherdale on my live cameras, streamed onto my YouTube Channel here;

And catch up on all the stories of the Fotherdale Barn owls here:


4 comments on Remembering Barney | The Life-Story of A Barn Owl

  1. That was a truly wonderful read Robert. It is sad when our wildlife friends, friends we value and cherish leave this mortal coil. Barney’s story is similar to that which I have experienced here during the past 15 years with a barn owl roost in a majestic old hollowed out oak close to my home that has seen a number of individual barn owls come and go, success and breeding failures whilst the lives of the resident badger and fox and transient deer family’s also come and go under the great oaks bows. I am always reassured by nature’s resilience and expertise at filling a vacuum with newcomers arriving to fill the void yet I always miss those individual characters that never fail to light up my life. Keep up the wonderful work Robert. Best wishes. Paul

  2. I so enjoy all videos and share them too. Put the Barny one on my bird forum that is international. Avian Avenue. You are one talented artist.

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