Survey of barn owls planned for Kerry

BirdWatch Ireland is conducting a survey of the barn owl population

A SURVEY of barn owls is the be undertaken in Kerry this summer and the assistance of the public is being sought by BirdWatch Ireland.

They are asking landowners to report information on barn owls to help direct the survey efforts and they would be delighted to hear from any member of the public who can point them in the right direction.

Barn owl populations have suffered extensive declines in recent decades and they are now a red-listed Bird of Conservation Concern in Ireland. As a top predator and sentinel species for the health of the countryside, the declines in populations are extremely worrying.

According to experts, the changing agricultural landscape has resulted in the loss of suitable habitats, including a reduction of prey-rich foraging habitat and nesting sites. Alongside these land use changes and the loss of habitat, the increased use and increased toxicity of anti-coagulant rodenticides and the expansion of major road networks are likely to be the main factors which have influenced the declines.

Although barn owl populations have declined over recent decades, Kerry has remained a stronghold for the population

Although barn owl populations have declined over recent decades, Kerry has remained a stronghold for the population. The county holds one of the highest number of known nest sites in the country and recent conservation efforts, including providing purpose-built nest boxes and ensuring protection of known nest sites, have proved successful.

The barn owl survey in Kerry is supported by Kerry County Council through the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage’s National Biodiversity Action Plan Fund, aims to establish how the species is currently faring in the county and to determine how the conservation measures previously implemented are working.

The findings will be used to ensure the protection of nest sites and to direct targeted conservation efforts which will include the provision of nest boxes to help the local population.

Michael O’Clery, of the Kerry branch of BirdWatch Ireland, said the population seems to be doing well in Kerry and it is great to see how many nest boxes have been taken up and used for nesting.

“The greater white-toothed shrew, which is an introduced small mammal, is present in neighbouring counties and although it has not been recorded in Kerry yet, it will likely soon colonise and it will be interesting to see what affect this has on the local barn owl population,”he said.

You can help the survey and conservation efforts by reporting any information that you have on barn owls in the county by visiting here or by visiting the BirdWatch Ireland website