Basic Information on Barn Owls:
The Barn Owl - Tyto alba at 34cm is an instantly recognizable white owl and is characteristic of lowland mixed farmland in Britain and Ireland where it feeds on small mammals found in rough grassland along field margins, roadways, riverbanks, woodland edge and around farm buildings.
The Barn Owl is generally found on farmland below 300m altitude where pairs nest inside used and disused buildings, mature hollow trees, rock crevices and conservation boxes or barrels. In Enland and Northern Ireland the barn owl diet consists mainly of mice, shrews and young rats. In the Republic of Ireland, Barn Owls also feed on the introduced bank vole, which is currently absent from Northern Ireland. Barn owls will also feed on amphibians when available, together with the occasional small bird and in winter, large beetles.
Local populations of Barn Owls will often be enhanced and promoted through planned changes in local habitat management combined with the creation of suitable nesting sites. In Northern Ireland particularly there is considerable potential to increase the barn owl population and throughout the whole of Ireland by enhancing the lowland farmland habitat.
The barn owl is one of the most widely distributed land birds in the world. Although since the 1950s there has been continued decline throughout much of its European range.The remaining strongholds are Spain, France, Germany, Italy and the UK. The current European population, about a quarter of the world's population is estimated at between 110k and 220k. The European breeding range of 3 million sqkm (Burfield & van Bommel, 2004).
It is understood that during the 50 years between 1932 and 1982 the barn owl population of the British Isles fell by an astounding 70%. However, in the following twenty years, a conservation project - "Project Barn Owl" revealed that the Barn Owl population of Britain and Northern Ireland (and Ireland) had become stabilised at about 5,000 pairs (4000 in Great Britain and 1000 in Ireland), (Shawyer, 1994).
Information on Barn Owls in relation to Barn Conversion:
The barn owl and its nesting sites are fully protected species under British law. It is also Amber listed in Birds of Conservation Concern in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, and Red listed in Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland and having listed under Appendix III of the Berne Convention, CITES Appendix 1 and European threat status D (Burfield & van Bommel, 2004).
Where the Barn Converion project may fall foul is in relation to Planning Policy Statement - Planning and Nature Conservation Paragraphs refering to protection of species. This indicates that the presence of a species protected under a Wildlife Order is material to the consideration of any development proposal, which if carried out would be likely to result in harm to the species or its habitat and, in particular, to places used for shelter or protection. Further comments refer to conditions that may be stipulated to secure the protection of the species, and the need for developers to conform with any statutory protection measures affecting the site concerned.
So not only are the natural environments like rough grass field margins to be considered that are essential for the migration, dispersal and genetic exchange of wild species but any building that is used by the Barn Owl as a nesting site is classed as a conservation area too.
Originally agricultural intensification - is thought to have been the major factor responsible for
the decline of the Barn Owl. With a reduction in the area of rough
The average life span of an adult Barn Owl is 5 years (Shawyer, 1994), and the populations can be subject to marked annual fluctuations related to natural causes such as incidence of winter snow cover.
A breeding pair of Barn Owls require at least 10 miles / 15 km of 15 ft / 5 metre wide field margin along river bank, canal towpath, woodland edge and field edge within a 2 mile / 3 km radius of the nest site (Shawyer, 1994). With loss of nesting sites and the demolition of suitable old farm buildings and the development of barn conversions removing available nesting opportunities. The blocking of entrances to church towers, barns and other buildings with wire netting, usually to exclude other birds, has also reduced the availability of these as roosting and nesting sites.
The RSPB does employs a dedicated Priority Bird Species Officer, whose prime role is to
The growth of 'Harry Potter' mania you will often find Barn Owl for Sale small ads - Please do not kep Barn Owls as pets!
Site protection policies are included in RSPB Development Plans. These include the
Barn Owl Bill rescues sick and injured owls, looks after these birds and whenever possible releases them back into the wild.
Batten, L.A., Bibby, C.J. Clement, P. Elliott, G.D. & Porter, R.F. (eds) (1990)