Owls find unique home

With the loss of trees, many of Cayman Islands birds have nowhere to build their nests this year and the breeding season is just beginning.

When UBS Internal Services Manager, Sonya Powell, noticed a family of owls living in an opened roof cavity of the UBS office building, she knew the birds would have to leave, so she called the National Trust Wildlife Rescue Centre to find out how to move them safely.

Patricia Bradley, author of Birds of the Cayman Islands, responded along with Lois Blumenthal, Manager of the Rescue Program. Mrs. Bradley explained that this was prime nesting season for owls and that there were probably young in the roost. To confirm this, Steve Smith of Reliable Industries was called to bring his bucket truck to lift Mrs. Bradley up for a closer inspection. Though the nest was well away from the opening and was fairly dark, she was able to make out a pair of adult Barn Owls and the fuzzy white heads of at least two young owlets, though there is the possibility of up to seven young in a nest like this one.

Mrs. Bradley said it is important to maintain Cayman’s Barn Owl population for several reasons, but of primary benefit to public health is the large number of rats taken by Barn Owls every night, especially when they have a nest full of young owlets to feed.

‘Barn Owls are providing a free natural rat-control service and so deserve protection wherever possible. They are the only resident bird predators on the three islands but have become much less common in the last decade,’ she explained. There could be several reasons for the decline but there is a real concern that owls are being killed or sickened from eating poisoned rats. Pest control agencies are diligent in follow-up efforts to stem this unanticipated side effect of their work, but due to these unexpected losses in recent years, it is very important that Barn Owl nesting sites be protected. Barn Owls pair for life, are long-lived and will use the same nesting site for decades.

Because the hole in the building is not open to the weather, UBS has agreed to wait until the owlets are fledged before making final repairs. National Trust General Manager, Frank Roulstone, complimented UBS for its understanding attitude and thanked them for their long standing support of the Trust.

For help with wildlife questions or problems, to volunteer or make a donation please call 916-6784 or drop by the National Trust temporary headquarters at 359 S. Church Street opposite Sunset House parking lot.