Barn owls are fascinating birds for sure. I am amazed at how they, and all owl species for that matter, can hunt during the night. They use their enhanced hearing and low light vision to find prey in the darkest of nights. But for barn owls things change sometimes during the winter months.
For a reason I am not exactly sure of barn owls will often times hunt during the winter months during daylight hours when there is snow on the ground. They hover over a snow covered field in hopes of hearing a mouse scurrying under the snow and will dive into the snow to try and catch the unsuspecting rodent. It is kind of a sneak attack which quite frankly I think gives a lot of advantage to the owl. Think about it for a moment. The rodent is buried under the snow and has no clue what is above but the owl with its super sensory hearing ability can hear the mouse move about. It’s the perfect ambush, right?
Well, not exactly. Often times winters are characterized with relentless snow and extremely low temperatures. I think the deeper the snow gets the advantage pendulum swings back towards the mouse and the colder the temperatures fall the more the owl has to hunt to keep its energy up and give its body warmth to endure the freezing temperatures.
Lately here in Utah we have been enduring such a winter. The snow seems to never end and we have had some fiercely cold stretches with nighttime temperatures dipping well below the -12 Fahrenheit mark and corresponding daytime temperatures making it up to only 10-15 degrees, well below freezing at the warmest part of the day. This is why the balance of nature is never always one sided. Sometimes the advantage goes to the prey species and sometimes it is given to the predator. This is why I find nature so fascinating. It is a constant balance of power between populations which one never truly dominates.
I am not 100% sure why the barn owl takes to the sky during winter months as it is well equipped to hunt during the night. I am not sure if the snow makes it harder to find prey at night or the owl just needs to find more food during the colder months, or both. Whatever the reason is, it is a real treat to see them hunting during the daylight hours. Barn owls are beautiful birds and are very well adapted to the role they play in nature, either at night or during the day and I cherish anytime I am able to witness and photograph one of them.