Barn Owls

Barn owl at Oare Marshes

Lynne and Peter Flower, Kent Wildlife Trust volunteers, write about the work they do to support and protect existing barn owls and create safe places for them to increase in numbers.

"Soft dark eyes, in a pale heart-shaped face, Silken white feathers with buff speckling….. It is difficult not to be awed by the sight of a barn owl."

As their name implies, barn owls are happiest in a traditional farmland habitat, providing hedges and rough grass, and where beams in open barns provide good nesting platforms, near hayricks and straw stacks which house mice and voles – their main food source.

Barn owl image

Although welcomed by most farmers, game-keepers in Victorian times killed many as they wrongly thought barn owls preyed on game chicks. In more modern times barn owls have suffered a big decline in their numbers, up against many threats, such as reduction in hedgerows and other good hunting habitat; the use of rodenticides; loss of old barns for nesting; and in particular increase in road traffic when many are killed foraging along verges.

In 2013 the Sevenoaks Living Landscapes (SOLL) chose ‘barn owls’ as a special project.

The Wildlife Trusts’ Living Landscapes projects are a major tool to create ‘stepping stones’ for wildlife across a landscape area by working with landowners to manage and maintain good habitats for a wide range of wildlife.

Good habitat management for barn owls also adds up to great habitat provision for a host of other creatures – and who can resist working towards improving conditions for barn owls!

So, in the SOLL area we began a plan to make barn owl nest boxes and put them up where habitat was suitable and where barn owls may have been seen – then talking to neighbouring landowners helping them to tempt barn owls into their area with good habitat management.

Since then we have put up 28 boxes, had several successful nesting, and many sightings.

We have learned so much and had such a rewarding time – and over the next year will share our experiences and pictures with you on this regular blog. Below is how we started – some of our excellent volunteers and our ‘first build’

SOLL barn owls team