Barn Owls Doing Better?
News from the BTO
2nd April 1997
As the three year Barn Owl project, organised by the Hawk and Owl Trust and the British Trust for Ornithology, enters its final year , there is good news for the owls. An analysis of the detailed nest records, over the last 30 years, shows significant increases in both clutch size (number of eggs) and brood size (numbers of young).
This is further evidence that the birds are able to do well where their preferred habitat is available. However it gives only a little hope for thje majority of Britain where Barn Owls are absent or in very short supply - through lack of habitat and, possibly, the toll from road traffic.
The three year survey relies on very detailed surveys of carefully chosen random plots throughout the country. Here the fieldworkers have been checking all possible breeding sites and reporting in detail on the available habitats (and nest sites). New help is not needed with this. But a new annual monitoring scheme is to be set up based on nest sites which will involve detailed observations. Helpers for this survey will be mostly drawn from existing Barn Owl enthusiasts.
Barn owls seem to have done rather well during 1996. The bad weather early in the year did not affect them much and the population of small mammals was at a peak in many areas - allowing the owls to feast on abundant food. In some areas the birds successfully reared two broods. It was sad for them that the snows came early in November and then, again, around the New Year. The snow covers the grassland where the owls prefer to hunt and inexperienced young birds will have inevitably suffered heavy mortality.