Suffolk

Barn owls: Suffolk has record number of chicks

Barn owl chicks Image copyright Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project
Image caption The project said 415 of its boxes were occupied by breeding pairs who produced chicks

A record number of barn owl chicks has been recorded in Suffolk this year after a "disastrous" 2013.

The Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project managed to ring 106 chicks last year.

This year it has tagged 862 youngsters from the 1,700 nesting boxes installed and registered with the project around the county.

Steve Piotrowski, project manager, said: "It's been an amazing turnaround - nature is remarkable in that it often stages dramatic recoveries."

Image copyright kathy piotrowski
Image caption Steve Piotrowski returns chicks to a nest box after ringing them with leg tags
Image copyright Steve Piotrowski
Image caption Barn owl chicks are forced by their parents to fledge from their boxes in early autumn, the project said

Since the project started in 2005, the most chicks recorded was 590 in 2012, but an extended cold spell cut that by more than 80% the following year.

About 20 birds were found to be dying each day last year because their preferred prey, the short-tailed vole, was not breeding in the cold.

Mr Piotrowski said: "Barn owls are known as the farmer's friend and important because they keep the rodent population down.

"This year our barn owls have demonstrated their resilience to the extremes of our weather."


Barn owls

  • There about 4,000 breeding pairs in the UK
  • They nest in holes in trees, barns and outbuildings, cliffs, former mines and quarries
  • 75% of young die in their first year
  • Adult pairs can produce two batches of eggs a year
  • Juveniles fly at 50-55 days
  • Owls remain in territories which have a border, or edge, of 12-15 miles (20-25km)
  • They can hunt using only their hearing

Source: RSPB


The project's partners include the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, British Trust for Ornithology, Suffolk Ornithologists' Group, Stour Valley Project and Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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