Barn Owl Project
Barn Owl Tyto 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 Owl Facts
- 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.
- Barn Owls have the most sensitive hearing of any animal ever tested!
- Barn Owls have declined by at least 70% in the UK and all of the causes of this decline are man-made.
- We used to have a pair living in the Town Church.
- 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
- 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.
Barn Owl Project
Barn owls are 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.
At the end of 2019 we launched this joint venture between the Ornithological Section and the Guernsey Biological Records Centre to address this data gap.
Our original aim was to update information about breeding and roosting sites in Guernsey, ahead of a season of fieldwork in 2020 and to publish a report in late 2020 or early 2021. Covid-19 disrupted operations leading to a delay in completing fieldwork, however we have now collected baseline data for our breeding Barn Owl population. Our objectives have expanded slighting.
- Collect up-to-date information about distribution, numbers and breeding status.
- Improve knowledge of breeding sites to reduce the risk of a nest being unknowingly disturbed/destroyed.
- Quantify Barn Owl abundance and distribution.
- Produce public reports to help inform future policy decisions made by the States of Guernsey concerning the protection of Barn Owls, and their habitats.
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.