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24 September 2014

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You are in: Devon > Nature > Nature Features > Barn owls: On the road to recovery?

A barn owl

A wise old bird...

Barn owls: On the road to recovery?

The number of barn owls in Devon is on the up for the first time in 100 years - but they're not out of the woods yet.

Barn Owls Facts

  • Fossil records indicate that barn owls date back two million years - much longer than modern man
  • Barn owls grow to around 13 inches (33cm) and the wingspan is 34 inches (85cm)
  • Many do not survive more than five years because of lack of food and habitat, and because of road deaths
  • The oldest recorded barn owl in Britain was over 13 years old
  • The Barn Owl Trust in Ashburton is a registered charity and was founded in 1988.

The beautiful barn owl was once a common sight in Devon and across the whole of England.

But the 20th century proved disastrous for this wise old bird. Since the 1930s, the barn owl population nationally has declined by almost three-quarters (70%) so that there are now only about 4,400 pairs remaining.

Changes in farming methods and the loss of green fields has led to a lack of habitat and food.

Barn owl in flight

A barn owl in flight

Road deaths have also taken their toll, with half of all recorded deaths being road casualties.

But at long last, there are signs of a revival in Devon, with the first rise in their numbers for 100 years.

In 2004, the Ashburton-based Barn Owl Trust published the result of a survey carried out at over 1,000 barn owl sites reported in the county over the previous 10 years.

The charity found 281 nests and 358 roosts, and estimated there are between 350 and 470 pairs across Devon.

Pair of barn owls

There are 350-470 pairs in Devon

It represented an increase of over a third (37%) since an earlier survey in 1993.

Hot spots included the South Hams, Teignbridge, North Devon and East Devon, where conservation work has paid off.

There wasn't such good news in West Devon, however, where there is concern about a big decline in barn owl numbers.

David Ramsden of the Barn Owl Trust said: "It's gratifying to see that the conservation work by groups like ourselves and concerned members of the public is paying off.

"But we have a long way to go before seeing a barn owl in Devon becomes as commonplace as it was in the 19th century."

 

last updated: 22/02/2008 at 10:47
created: 18/10/2005

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