Barn Owl Surveys
Barn owls once used to be a common sight but this species has declined to such an extent that it now considered a rare bird over much of Britain. Part of the reason for its decline is due to the loss of prey-rich habitat (e.g. rough grassland) through the intensification of agriculture and suitable nesting/roosting sites through the conversion of barns and restoration of derelict cottages.
Survey Types & Timing
Barn owl surveys can be carried out at any time of year and involve looking for signs of nesting such as egg shells, feeding remains, feathers as well as the birds themselves. Barn owl surveys are often requested by Local Planning Authorities in conjunction with initial bat surveys.
Legislation & Planning
The barn owl is protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and is listed as a Schedule 1 bird. It is therefore an offence, with certain exceptions, to:
- Intentionally kill, injure, or take (handle) any wild barn owl.
- Intentionally take, damage or destroy any wild barn owl nest whilst in use or being ‘built’ (barn owls do not ‘build’ a nest but may make a nest scrape).
- Intentionally take or destroy a wild barn owl egg.
- Have in one’s possession or control a wild barn owl (dead or alive), or egg, (unless one can show that it was obtained legally).
- Intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild barn owl whilst ‘building’ a nest or whilst in, on, or near a nest containing eggs or young.
- Intentionally or recklessly disturb any dependent young of wild barn owls.
Please note that barn owls are only protected against disturbance whilst they are at or near a nest containing eggs or young. They can however breed at any time of year and therefore a detailed search must be carried out, by a suitably licensed person, to prove/disprove nesting activity. Licenses cannot be issued to remove barn owls in order to facilitate development.
Suitable mitigation for barn owls can include the erection of barn owl nesting boxes (internal or external) and provision of foraging grounds through the retention of rough grassland areas.