Mid Cheshire Barn
Owl Conservation Group
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Decline in the Barn Owl Population

The Barn Owl has been less able to adapt to changes in the environment during the last half a century compared to some other birds and animals, for example kestrels and foxes have adapted well. Some birds of prey have been saved from extinction but the barn owl continues to be declining rapidly, especially in Cheshire.

In 1932 there were 240 pairs of barn owls in Cheshire but by 2000 only 19 breeding pairs were recorded; that's a staggering 92% decline. This appears to be an improvement over 1999 when only 10 pairs were recorded but the truth is that the count for 2000 was more accurate and though there will be a few pairs that escaped detection this figure can be considered to be a good reflection of dire state of the barn owl population in Cheshire. Further evidence of the continued decline is that on average in 2000 each breeding pair succeeded in rearing 2.2 fledgings - this is insufficient to maintain a stable barn owl population in Cheshire. At least 3 fledglings per pair are required; this might not seem like a big difference but in reality it is going to need an increase in the good work done so far and groups such as the Mid Cheshire Barn Owl Conservation Group must seek further help & support.

In 2003 we estimate that there are 30 breeding pairs of barn owls in the county, five of these being in Mid Cheshire.

Major Causes of Decline

The causes of the decline are many but some of the main ones are shown below:

  • Loss of habitat that is, rough grassland
  • Loss of nest sites
  • Collisions with road and rail traffic
  • Drowning in steep-sided water tanks
  • Prey contaminated with rodenticides
  • Starvation
  • Severe Winters

More detailed information about habitat and causes of death can be found in the "Survival of Barn Owls" section of this site accesible from the Main index

All images Ian Philip Jones, no permission to use any of them is implied.