The Canadian Peregrine Foundation

University fight to save barn owls
April 12, 2007
Countryside Management Assocation News

Pioneering research at the University of York is to swoop to the rescue of barn owls, whose population has plummeted in the last 75 years.

Dr Nick Askew, of the university's Department of Biology, has produced a leaflet that reveals exactly the kind of environment the bird needs in order to survive.

In the past, people were advised how to create the ideal habitat for the owl, but this did not take into account where they lived.

But Dr Askew's work showed that the bird had different needs depending on whether it was in arable, pastoral, or mixed agricultural areas. The study indicated what the barn owl required from each of the three types of landscape.

Dr Askew said: "We combined information gathered by volunteers with modern mapping techniques to help identify the best areas for barn owl habitat creation, and nest boxes.

"There is an army of volunteers in Britain working to conserve this popular bird.

"At present, there are only 4,000 pairs in Britain and more conservation effort is needed. Our results will allow conservationists to assess the suitability of their local area for barn owls, and make more informed decisions on how to help the species."

Dr Askew's project was done in partnership with The Barn Owl Trust (BOT) and the RSPB.

David Ramsden, of BOT, said the research would help to make barn owls a more familiar sight.

Mr Ramsden said the leaflet would increase the general public's awareness of the kind of habitat the birds required to survive in.

He said the work would enlighten people about how much rough grassland owls needed in order to flourish.

The leaflet contains information on barn owl nesting boxes, and how to manage grassland to encourage the maximum number of animals to live in it - barn owls thrive on such creatures as voles, shrews and mice.

Mr Ramsden said: "Dr Askew's study will encourage conservation efforts across the country - hopefully we should see the number of owls increasing over the next couple of years. It's definitely a step in the right direction."

He said anyone with land in the countryside could nurture a habitat for barn owls.

Return to the Bulletin

Click here to go to the main News Page

Canadian Peregrine Foundation