Barn Owl Surveys

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  • Barn Owl Surveys © Craig Llewellyn
  • Barn Owl © Arbeco Ltd.
  • Barn Owl Surveys © Arbeco Ltd.
  • © Arbeco Ltd.

Background

Barn owls are iconic birds closely associated with rural habitats. They have buff coloured upper parts which are speckled with grey and white markings. Barn owls are easily recognised by their heart shaped face and white under parts.

Barn owls are not territorial and their home range can be up to 5000 hectares (ha), however it usually reduces to approximately 350 ha during the breeding season. Barn owls nest and roost  in dry, elevated spaces in suitable buildings and trees in rural areas.

The British  barn owl feeds primarily on small mammals and therefore relies heavily on the provision of habitats which support good populations of these species such as rough grassland. The Barn owl breeding season usually starts in late March to early April with the eggs hatching in the second half of May . However, barn owls have been recorded laying eggs in every month of the year.

Young barn owls fledge approximately 14 weeks after hatching. In the west of the UK barn owls primarily use agricultural buildings whereas large, often dead, trees with suitable cavities are more often used in the east due to availability. Artificial nest boxes  are also regularly used by barn owls.

Barn owls are listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) (as amended), and it is illegal to kill or injure the birds, take or destroy their eggs, damage or destroy their nests whilst in use and to disturb nesting birds or their young.

Survey

A barn owl survey involves an initial desk study to obtain records of barn owls and/or nest sites for the surrounding area. A site visit is then undertaken to search for barn owls or evidence of nesting and / or roosting, including nest and / or roost debris, discarded feeding remains, regurgitated pellets, faecal deposits, eggs and feathers.

This allows an assessment to be made regarding the type and level of use of the site by barn owls or whether the site has potential to support barn owls.

Mitigation

Should evidence of breeding barn owls be recorded at a development site, adequate and suitable mitigation must be designed to ensure they are not disturbed and that nesting provision is maintained at the site.

This comprises alternative nest site provision (e.g. an artificial nestbox) within 200 m of the recorded nesting site at least 30 days prior to the commencement of works; a complete re-survey of the recorded nesting site immediately prior to works commencing to ensure barn owls are not present; the restriction of the commencement of works between 1st March to the 31st August; and the provision of adequate permanent provision for nesting barn owls at the site (e.g. purpose built integrated nesting area within building).

Habitats can be created to compensate for the loss of habitat. To increase birdlife on site replacement barn owl boxes or lofts can be provided, and areas for foraging and roosting barn owls enhanced.

Contact us to discuss your site and requirements in more detail.

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