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Who’s Who-ooo on the Barn Owl Live Cam
There are so many barn owls in my garden it can be really difficult to tell who’s who. Quite often I’ve seen seven barn owls at once on the live camera, and I think there could be up to 10 owls out there most nights. So I’ve made a video below to show you the difference between some of the owls and created a ‘rogue’s gallery’ of our main characters below including tips so that you can tell them apart.
Barn Owls Are Very Hard to Tell Apart
If I’m completely honest with you, I also find it difficult to tell the difference between them! I’ve found that by printing out the photographs I take and laying them side by side I can pick out the differences, But at times it is so difficult, as the photographs of the male barn owl, Barney, below shows. These two photographs were taken from the same camera but in different lighting conditions, so Barney looks very different in each picture. On the left, the sunlight is catching him and its deepened the contrasts. But if you look very closely you can see he has fleck markings along his wings which is how I tell him apart
Adult Male | Raised Three Fotherdale Chicks 2020 | Presumed Dead
Distinguishing Characteristics: Very Pale | Not Ringed
Barney was a favourite on the barn owl live camera. He lived here for three years and has raised several clutches, but sadly, he hasn’t been with us for the last month and I fear he may have passed away.
Adult Female | Raised Three Fotherdale Chicks 2020
Distinguishing Characteristics: Heavy Dark Markings Along Top of Head | Not Ringed | Tiny Black Tip in Ruff of Facial Disc | Often Seen in Elm Stump
Barney’s mate this year was Gylfie. She’s a very typical looking female barn owl for the UK. She’s much more heavily marked than Barney and shows much more colour, which is typical of a female when compared with a male.
But if you look at the top of her head she has more blues and greys there than many of the other female owls. Gylfie has never been rung, so without an ID ring around her leg I also have to rely on other factors, such as her behaviour and habits to help me identify her. In Gylfie’s case, she likes to spend a lot of time in the Elm Stump so if I see an owl here I can begin to consider that it is her.
I’ve also noticed that Gylfie has unique markings along the bottom of her facial disc. These are harder to spot, but if you look closely at the photograph above there is a pattern to the feathers and a tiny black dot on the right of her beak right inside the ‘ruff’ of her fringe. I’ve found that the colouring on the feathers around owl’s facial discs stay with them throughout each moult so this is an ideal way to tell the differences between these owls.
Looking at Habits and Behaviour
I often consider an owls individual character when identifying it. Because of the cameras I know these owls well and know where they go, where they like to perch, how they act, and even how they act when I am around. Some are more confident and others are more cautious. All these factors lead into how I work out who’s who in the garden.
Identifying the Chicks
Female |Hatched at Fotherdale 08/05/2020 | Parent Owls Gylfie & Barney
Distinguishing Characteristics: Not Ringed | Has Black Tipped Feather Below Beak
Solo is absolutely stunning. She has much darker fringing around her facial disc than her mother does. Also un-rung, I’ve had to look closely at Solo’s feathering to pick her out because there are several owls that look quite similar to her. But I have noticed, and if you look at the photograph below you can also see, she has a tiny black fleck just below her beak to the left. This is a really good indicator and you can pick it out on the live cameras.
Hans and Grete
Barney and Gylfie went on to have a second brood and so we also have Hans and Grete. If you are only just catching up with who’s who on the cameras, I’ve got news for you. I’m afraid we initially identified Grete as a female and Hans as a male. We realised quite quickly that Hans was actually a female, but it wasn’t until Grete had fledged that we realised he is actually a male! I told you it can be very difficult telling these owls apart!
Female | Hatched Fotherdale 10/08/2020 | Parent Owls Gylfie & Barney
Distinguishing Characteristics: Dark Flecks on Breast | Buff-Coloured Shadowing on Neck | Right Leg Ringed
Hans & Grete are ringed on their right legs so this helps identify them. And then, of course, Hans is a female, which you can tell by the flecks down the side of her breast feathers and by her heavily-trimmed facial disc.
Male | Hatched Fotherdale13/08/2020 |Parent Owls Gylfie & Barney
Distinguishing Characteristic: Right Leg Ringed | Damaged Feather
Grete is the younger of the owls and when we rang him we thought he was a female because he has a heavily trimmed facial disc, but as he has grown his downy fluff has moulted away we’ve seen there are no fleck markings along his breast. He is also paler than Hans, especially on the feathers on his neck – if you look at Hans this part is shadowed with buff-coloured feathers.
But the easiest way to identify Grete is by his broken wing feather. This was broken by the resident tawny owl, Bomber. Bomber is very territorial and when Hans and Grete were chicks he raided their nest regularly. On many of these running raids he knocked the barn owl chicks about. Grete’s broken feather is now his most distinguishing feature and it will stay with him, unless it breaks away, until next autumn when he moults.
Chicks Fostered At Fotherdale
Male | Found Castle Howard | Introduced to Fotherdale 13/08/2020
Distinguishing Characteristic: Left Leg Ringed
Howard is another favourite on the live cams. A male, he was brought here by Ryedale Rehabilitation and released into the wild just as he was beginning to fledge. He is now living wild and his favourite spots are the Sycamore Stump and the Barn Owl Nest Tower. He has relatively dark ochre colours along his wings and back for a male, although he also has patches of typical blues and greys. But the best way to identify him is by a tiny little nick on the bottom left of his facial disc. I call it a nick, but it is actually a darker feather in his facial disc that looks a bit like a nick. And, of course the fastest way to identify him is he has a ring on his left foot.
Female | Found Near Drax Power Station | Introduced Fotherdale 01/11/2020
Distinguishing Characteristic: Left Leg Ringed
We only have one other owl here at Fotherdale with a ring on its left foot and that’s Drax, who is not with us at the moment. Drax arrived here for rehabilitation in October but she is fighting off a respiratory condition and is currently back at Ryedale Rehabilitation receiving more treatment. We hope she will be back with us in the next couple of weeks. She’s a very dark female and has a very heavily trimmed facial disc.
Mystery Male – Gylfie’s new Partner
Found Scarborough | Introduced to Fotherdale August 2019 | As yet Unnamed
Distinguishing Characteristics: Sideburns | Vertical White Feathers on Top of Facial Disc
Finally, there is a male who appeared on the cameras recently courting Gylfie. I was able to identify this male from the ring on his right leg and discovered that he is actually an owl I rehabilitated here last year. He was found on the floor in a barn in Scarborough and arrived here as a tiny chick last summer, He fledged from Elm Stump last September. You can identify him by the very white feathers right at the top of his heart-shaped facial disc and the darker feathers along each side of the disc which almost look like sideburns. This makes him reasonably easy to tell apart even though he is a typical male.
More Owl ID to Come
There are definitely more owls out there and I will identify them for you soon. In the meantime, I hope this guide helps you learn who’s who as you watch the live cams.
Watch the Video.
Click on the image below to play the video that will help you identify the owls better.