The Crisfield condo owner took this photo of the owlets nesting on her balcony before they fledged and one was rescued. Photo courtesy of Ranger Christina Carlson.

Crisfield Barn Owls Rescued, New Janes Island Habitat Created

A group of barn owls nesting on the balcony of a vacation condo in Crisfield has led park rangers to create new habitat for this declining species of owl.

Last spring a homeowner discovered a couple of owls had nested on her balcony, with at least three fluffy owlets. Most of the owl family fledged, but one injured bird needed rescuing. That’s where new Park Manager for nearby Janes Island State Park, Christina Carlson, stepped in. She was experienced with raptors, and helped get the injured owl to a wildlife rescue.

The presence of the owl family in a human-populated place prompted Ranger Carlson and other rangers to launch an effort to give barn owls a better place to nest. The barn owl population has declined dramatically in Maryland, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

(From left): Ranger Mark Herring, Janes Island State Park; Ranger Melissa Boyle Acuti, Chief of Interpretation, Maryland Park Service; Ranger Brent Sullivan, Assistant Park Manager at Janes Island State Park. Photo: Maryland DNR

They made a plan to build three nesting boxes on Janes Island. One of Janes Island State Park’s skilled volunteers, Camp Host David Clark, built the boxes according to specifications provided by Chris Snow, Stewardship Coordinator for DNR’s Chesapeake and Coastal Service. They have been installed in suitable spots outside the wildland.

“If they’re finding owlets on abandoned balconies of condos at five or six stories tall … if we tried to provide them the means to nest effectively, with predator excluders, we thought this would be a great opporrtunity to provide that on the island,” Carlson tells Bay Bulletin.

Now the true test is whether any interested barn owls will take up residence in the nesting boxes come spring. “If they come back to nest in the spring, that will be the real success story. That they’ll use them,” Carlson says.

DNR’s Snow cautions that it may take a year or so for the owls to discover the nesting boxes, but is very hopeful they could host nesting barn owls in a year or two.

Carlson says the nesting box effort has been fulfilling. “As a park ranger, it was a highlight to get that call and turn it into a project. That’s a great day’s work.”

For information on volunteering or getting involved in conservation projects at Janes Island State Park, call the park at 410-968-1565 or email the volunteer coordinator, Ranger Mark Herring, at [email protected].