Northern Ireland

Barn owl killed by car after record-setting flight

One of the four barn owl chicks that were ringed by BirdWatch Ireland at a traditional nest site in Kerry in July 2015 Image copyright BirdWatch Ireland/Michael O'Clery
Image caption BirdWatch Ireland took this photo of one of the four barn owl chicks ringed at a traditional nest site in Kerry in July 2015

A young barn owl set a distance record by flying from Kerry in the Republic of Ireland to Londonderry in Northern Ireland, only to be killed by a car on arrival.

The juvenile bird had flown 220 miles - almost double the distance previously recorded on the island of Ireland.

It was found dead on the Limavady Road in Derry by a volunteer worker with the Ulster Wildlife Trust.

It had been ringed as a chick at a nest site in Kerry the previous summer.

'Very sad'

After their first winter, juvenile barn owls disperse to establish their own hunting and breeding grounds, but the average distance they travel is usually about 20 miles.

The young birds are vulnerable during this process and more than 30% of them are killed on the roads.

Ulster Wildlife's barn owl officer Catherine Fegan said: "It is very sad that this juvenile travelled so far to end up as road victim.

"However, this new information shows how important ringing chicks is to further understanding barn owl behaviour in Ireland."

'Decline'

There are between 30 and 50 breeding pairs of barn owls in Northern Ireland.

The trust said that if juvenile birds can survive their first year after relocating, it could help boost the numbers in Northern Ireland.

The barn owl is a red-listed species in Northern Ireland, meaning it has the highest conservation status.

It is silent in flight but often referred to as the screech owl due to its ear-splitting call.

The Ulster Wildlife Trust is involved in a three-year project to help halt the decline of the barn owl.

It includes working with farmers to improve habitat and provide nest sites and mapping breeding sites.

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