Early festive cheer as breeding barn owl numbers increase

Barn owl image by Alan Tunnicliffe
Barn owl image by Alan Tunnicliffe

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is sharing some early festive cheer after the numbers of breeding barn owls recorded in the county showed an increase on the previous two years.

Figures over the past few years have suggested there are fewer barn owls in Britain than ever before. But the Trust’s Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group (BOAG) has reported 44 breeding pairs in 2016, compared to 40 in 2014 and 2015.

This year, BOAG monitored 294 nest boxes where they found 40 breeding pairs of barn owls with another four breeding pairs found using natural nest sites such as mature hollow trees and old buildings.

BOAG —made up of a small group of volunteers affiliated with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust—formed in 2001.

The group build, install and monitor nest boxes across Staffordshire.

The Staffordshire Moorlands continues to be a stronghold for the county’s barn owl population. There was also an increase of numbers in the Stafford area—from two breeding pairs in 2015 to 10 in 2016.

Helen Cottam, BOAG volunteer, said:

“Barn owls are a cherished sight across our region. It has been well documented that their numbers have plummeted, with populations falling by 70 per cent due to farming techniques intensifying, meaning nest sites and foraging habitats were being lost.

“Even though it is a small increase, this is very pleasing news and a step in the right direction. There is still a long way to go to keep protecting these beautiful birds. We need more nest boxes and more volunteers.

“While monitoring, we also found tawny owls, little owls, kestrels, stock doves, a mandarin duck, jackdaws and even one very surprised looking stoat all using the nest boxes which we installed.”

For more information about BOAG contact Helen on 01889 880100 or email h.cottam@staffs-wildlife.org.uk