Nature Diary: Barn owls

There has been a 50 per cent drop in the number of barn owls over the last 25 years

Barn owls hover with dangling legs when hunting for small mammals. Photograph:  Birdwatch Ireland

Barn owls hover with dangling legs when hunting for small mammals. Photograph: Birdwatch Ireland

 

Known for their eerie screech and ghostly white movements across the sky, barn owls are a rare sight these days. They are usually found near old buildings – ruins, farms, church towers and in woodlands over the winter months. They have a graceful flight with slow deep wing beats. They hover with dangling legs when hunting for small mammals (mainly rats and mice), small birds and insects over fields and open ground. 

Barn owls are red listed Bird of Conservation Concern in Ireland due to a drop of 50 per cent in numbers over the last 25 years. There are about 500 pairs of barn owls left compared to 3,000 pairs of the long-eared owls. Birdwatch Ireland has some interesting video footage of a nesting pair of barn owls near Tralee, Co Kerry. The aim of this research is to track their movements and foraging habits to understand better the threats to their existence, such as intensive farming, poisoning and death on roads at night time.

See also Irishraptors.blogspot.ie.

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