Barred Owls

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Hosted by Wild Birds Unlimited
Indianapolis, IN

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About the Nest

Jim Carpenter, Founder, President and CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited, has hosted a camera-equipped owl box in his wooded backyard since 1998. Set about 32 feet high against the trunk of a pignut hickory tree, this Barred Owl box was first occupied in 2003. Since then, the box has hosted Barred Owl nests nearly every year. Since 2012 the Wild Birds Unlimited Barred Owl Cam has been part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Cam Network. The outside camera was added in 2018 so we can all watch the action outside on the perch and when the owlets fledge. To keep predators like raccoons from investigating the nest, aluminum flashing was wrapped around the tree.  

The camera has been upgraded several times since that 1st low-res camera in 1998. The most recent upgrade was in 2021 with an Axis P3375-LVE 1080p security camera with microphone. An infrared illuminator in the box means you can keep track of the owls’ comings and goings throughout the night (don’t worry—the light is invisible to the owls).

The camera and audio is connected to Jim’s house via 200 feet of ethernet cable to the modem and computer. At the computer, Cornell Lab of Ornithology staff take over and stream the video to the internet and monitor and update the action on Twitter.

It takes several trips each year by skilled arborist tree climbers to maintain the box, bring it down for repairs and camera upgrades and keep the lens clean. But once the nesting begins, there can be no more visits!

About the Barred Owls

Since the birds aren’t banded, we can’t tell whether this is the same pair as in past years. Although male and female Barred Owls look alike in their plumage, females can be up to a third bigger than males. You can also tell the difference between them by watching their behavior; only the female incubates the eggs and chicks, but the male is responsible for the bulk of the feeding, ferrying prey items to the incubating female, and sharing them with her inside and outside of the box.

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