The Barn owl Trust are a charity who do tons of good things for barn owls. Visit their website for further information.
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Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Barn owls are present across Britain except for the Highlands and islands of Scotland. Barn owls do sometimes roost in barns and buildings but despite the name, they will also use many natural features such as holes in trees and rock crevices to roost and lay eggs. Barn owls prefer rough grassland habitats which support good populations of rodents, with voles being a particular favourite. Barn owls also like field edges, riparian vegetation and grass strips alongside woodlands which provide good hunting grounds.
Barn owls hunt at night using their excellent eyesight and hearing to locate prey. Owls have fringed flight feathers which enable them to fly almost silently and get close to prey animals before carrying them away with their strong talons. Barn owls prefer voles, mice and occasionally birds and frogs. Barn owls begin to hunt at dusk and fly over an area of rough grassland habitat looking downwards most of the time. When a small mammal is seen or heard the owl hovers and picks the best moment to pounce. Barn owls will also hunt from a perch, waiting for prey to appear close by then dropping directly on to the prey.
The decline of the barn owl has been caused by many factors. The mechanisation of agriculture and demand for cheaper foods has led to a loss of high quality foraging habitat. The use of poison to kill mice and rats has also had an impact on populations. Barns and other agricultural buildings have been converted into houses and major roads cutting through habitats claim many barn owls every year.
An Extended phase 1 habitat survey prior to the start of any works on site will identify Barn Owl habitats and field signs and enable you to plan for any further survey, licensing and mitigation work. When converting loft spaces in barns areas can be set aside for use by barn owls and other roosts can be created using nest boxes placed high in trees or suitable structures.