Watching out for Barn Owls: part 2

Alex Cripps – Conservation Graduate Trainee

A couple of weeks ago I headed out with local bird expert Wilf Norman to meet some Barn owl chicks….

Wilf and his close team have been monitoring Barn owls nests for several years. Over the years several nest boxes have been installed and many are used by Barn owls on a regular basis.

The target of our visit was a couple of nest boxes not far from the coast which Wilf had been monitoring, and the aim was to put British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) rings on the young chicks.

01 very small barn owl chick 1 of 6 chicksBird ringing is carried out by BTO ringers who have a ringing permit as well as a nest inspection licence (wild Barn owl nest inspections are illegal except under license). This is to ensure that the birds are handled correctly to limit stress caused to the chicks or the parent birds.

The first nest box we went to was occupied by a large family with 6 02 barn owl chicks siblingsBarn owls chicks. Two chicks were quite mature, with adult feathers already coming through. The smallest chick was much smaller in comparison, but still big enough to put on a BTO ring.

Another farm we visited has previously had a Barn owl nesting in hay bales, so the farmer set up his own Barn owl box and the following year the female moved straight in and raised 4 chicks. This year she only had 2 chicks but they were very healthy and a really good size. It was so great to see them up close!

Bird ringing is a really good way to identify birds in the future by the unique code on the metal split rings. Often ringing records are sent into the BTO if someone has come across a casualty or dead bird. This information is incredibly useful for the study of the ecology of barn owls, to understand more about populations and to ultimately guide conservation efforts.

03 Alex and barn olw chick

Please let us know if you think you have Barns owls nesting on your land, or if you’re lucky enough to see a Barn owl.

Update on Barn owls and treacherous water troughs – see previous post          The Barn Owl Trust recommend using a DIY float rather than a plank to give tired owls a chance of survival if they end up in a trough – and they have a specific leaflet which includes how to make such a simple float.

2 thoughts on “Watching out for Barn Owls: part 2

  1. A number of farmers I’ve offered owl boxes to for nothing, have refused because they believe that once they are occupied the National Park may well refuse them later building alterations etc., because; “there are breeding barn owls” in your buildings.

    That said there are hundreds of unoccupied farm buildings and barns in the area, perhaps the park could encourage farmers to instal them and/or have the park apprentices/volunteers etc., both build and install them using donated timber etc., for nothing!!

  2. Occupied barn owl nest boxes don’t need to lead to refusal for alterations, there would just need to be special conditions to take the presence owls into account . We’d always work hard to try to accommodate the requirements of the farmer and the owls. Having breeding Barn owls on a farm can be seen as a privilege, as well as helping with pest control, so we’re hoping that most farmers aren’t put off by their protected status. It shouldn’t turn out to be a negative thing.
    See planning guidance at –
    http://www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/265612/pan2.pdf
    http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/76007?category=40030

    Remember too that Barn owl boxes can also go in trees.

    Thanks for your excellent suggestion to get volunteers and apprentices making up some barn owl boxes – we will pass the idea on!

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