Barn Owl Survey

Barn Owl Strix alba 2020 survey

This survey is being led by the Ornithology Section of La Société. 

This page gives an overview of the Barn Owl Survey, but for full details click the button below to go the survey home page.

Some quick facts about this work:

Why do we care about this owl?

Barn Owls are vulnerable. In the rest of Great Britain they are the only owl with Schedule 1 Protected Status under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which gives them an extra level of protection, particularly during the breeding season.

Barn Owls are an important indicator species, so any decrease in their numbers is an early warning sign that there are problems in the wider environment. They have special protected status in the rest of Great Britain.
The 2018 Habitat Survey reports an alarming loss of their grassland habitat. Barn owls are birds of open farmland and rough grassland. If their habitat is lost through changing land use, the owls cannot thrive. At present, we don’t know what is happening to the Guernsey’s Barn Owl population. The 2020 survey will help to establish robust baseline data about the number of breeding pairs.

Barn Owl Decline in the UK

Barn Owls in Guernsey

We don't know what's happening with our owls.

Barn Owl Facts

  1. They are an indicator species for open farmland and rough grassland. If owls are in decline, it is usually because their rough grassland hunting habitats are declining. This is a warning sign that other wildlife, which depends on these habitats – such as bats, butterflies, insects, and other wildlife – may be under threat.
  2. Barn Owls have the most sensitive hearing of any animal ever tested!
  3. Barn Owls have declined by at least 70% in the UK and all of the causes of this decline are man-made.
  4. We used to have a pair living in the Town Church.
  5. Barn owls have specially adapted feathers which allow them to fly silently...but super adaptation comes at a cost and Barn Owls aren't very waterproof. This means very wet weather like the Autumn in 2019 mean they can't hunt very much and are at risk of starvation
  6. Barn Owls are predatory birds and their diet consists mainly of small mammals. They eat their prey whole but cannot digest fur or bone. This is regurgitated in the form of a pellet.

“Vic Froome has done a huge amount of work, making and putting up boxes across the island. His original network had more than 400 boxes. He also produced regular newsletters with his wife, Jill. He has been less active in recent years and with the establishment of the Biodiversity Strategy we are now in a position to build on his impressive work.”
Julie Davis
Barn Owl Project Coordinator

Barn Owl Survey 2020

Barn owls have been seen flying all over Guernsey, but we know very little about where they live, nest, their territories or how they have been affected by land change.

Objectives:

  1. Collect up-to-date information about distribution, numbers and breeding status.
  2. Improve knowledge of breeding sites to reduce the risk of a nest being unknowingly disturbed/destroyed.
  3. Produce a Survey Report in early 2021 with a clear methodology, results and recommendations for the future.
Successful breeding pair with three fledglings in the Castel 2019 © Dave Carré

Survey Updates!

Featured: Chris Mourant, trained bird ringer, ringing 2 owlets June 2020

2020 Milestones

September

05/09/20 Confirmed owlets in Sark.

June

20/06/20 Three out of five nestlings have survived at the Guernsey nest and are growing their first feathers.

May

17/05/20 The first hatchling emerged from its egg at the Guernsey nest.

April

24/04/20 An egg count of five was reported from Guernsey, from a nest site monitored with a nest camera.

 

Nest Boxes

Once the breeding season is finished, we plan to clean out and repair nest boxes. Nest boxes should only be cleaned using proper equipment as they can be rather high up!

Why is it important to clean out nest boxes?

The internal floor of the nest box is lower than the entrance hole. This is important as it reduces the chances of a nestling barn owl from falling out of the box and dying as a result of neglect or predation.
This means it’s important that the box depth is maintained by clearing out the box once it has more than about 80 mm of nest debris. Otherwise the debris builds up putting owlets at risk. 

Barn Owl nest box