Every evening, for the last six months, REGUA´s Visitor Centre was visited by a mysterious nocturnal animal. It was common to see pellets and white stains on cars and all over the floor first thing in the morning. We finally found out that the elusive creature was a Barn-owl (Tyto furcata)! It is nesting at the top of an old tree by REGUA’s common area and feeding on small vertebrates.
Widely distributed, this species occurs in all the Americas, except for the densely forested regions of the Amazon. Barn-owls inhabit open and semi-open areas and they are more active at dusk and at night. They are commonly seen flying low or on top of fences along the road. During day time, they sleep or nest in church towers, attics of houses and tree hollows. An unmistakable feature of the species is their heart-shaped face. Males and females are quite similar however, the male may present a white underpart while the female may present a cream to light brown colour underpart.
Barn-owls feed on rodents, invertebrates and some larger mammals and small birds. Studies have shown that this species is able to separate different materials in their stomach, including hair, bones and other non-digestible parts. The pellet cycle is regular, regurgitating the remains when the digestive system has finished extracting the nutrition from the food. This is often done at a favourite roost. When an Owl is about to produce a pellet, it will take on a pained expression. Owl pellets differ from other birds of prey in that they contain a greater proportion of food residue. This is because an owl’s digestive juices are less acidic than in other birds of prey.