All eyes on hoo?

barnowlbA live webcast from the Belle Glade campus is giving students and the world a bird’s-eye view of the intricate lives and behaviors of one of the earth’s most mysterious creatures, the barn owl.

Webcams installed inside two owl nesting boxes on campus provide for up-close observation anytime from any computer or mobile device. The cameras catch everything from the owls’ resting patterns and food selections to their interaction with one another and their owlets. “It’s like being in someone’s house. Instead of seeing a snapshot, you see events 24-7,’’ said Dr. Vetaley Stashenko, PBSC anatomy and microbiology professor who supervises the project.

Stashenko built the plywood boxes, added wood shavings for nesting material and mounted them on 10-foot poles. Within a week of installation, two owls had populated the nesting boxes. A  campus-wide naming contest came up with the names Hootie and Luna for these first two residents, who continue to inhabit
the first nesting box while another pair of owls have made the second nesting box their home. “We’re finding out very interesting modes of behavior that are not recorded anywhere in the wildlife literature,’’ Stashenko said. “For example, we have discovered that the owls can recognize infrared light from the cameras. We have the ability to change the intensity of that  light, and if we manipulate it, the owls will answer or call to the light.”

In addition, he said that while wildlife literature says that owls normally lay eggs between December and March, these owls have shown that is not always the case. “They’re like people. They’re going to behave differently. They’re going to feed from different sources. They differ in how they behave, how they reproduce and how long they stay inside of the box. In the literature, you can’t find this sort of data,’’ Stashenko said.

View the Barn Owl Project webcam here.