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Barn Owl

Last updated: 18 January 2011

Barn owls were once widespread in Wales, but in the last 50 years their numbers have dropped considerably.

In this clip Iolo Williams, watches a barn owl hunting on the field boundaries at the Dolydd Hafren Reserve in Montgomeryshire.

The owls hunt here, where the grass grows longer as it's a favourite haunt of its prey, voles and field mice.

There are only about 400 breeding pairs in Wales. But, numbers appear to have stabilised, and are even starting to increase in some areas.

The newest and biggest threat is that posed by traffic on the roads, which according to the Barn Owl Trust, is responsible for more than half of all barn owl deaths.

In Wales, the barn owls' preferred prey is the short-tailed vole which prospers in grassy roadside verges. Consequently the owl spends a lot of time hunting in this hazardous environment, so collisions have, until now, been almost inevitable.

It has small dark eyes and the ability to rotate its head, giving the owl almost 360 degree vision.

Anglesey is a barn owl hotspot and Cardigan is also thought to support a higher than average density.

Barn owls nest in holes in trees or in barns and outbuildings and it is an offence to disturb them during the breeding season. The adults, young, nests and eggs are protected from harm at all times.

As it flies overhead at night, the barn owl is said to look more like a ghost than a bird, giving rise to the local Welsh folk name 'aderyn corff' or 'corpse bird'.

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