This week we put up two barn owl boxes, just in time before these birds of prey start looking for their nesting sites. These triangular boxes are best situated in mature trees, isolated in a hedgerow or on the woodland edge. Ideally the tree needs to have few or no low branches and be close to rough grassland. Northwood is the perfect location – The wood pasture fields are saturated with the barn owls favourite rodent on the menu – the field vole. However, they also prey on bank voles, shrews, mice, rats and small birds.
After their numbers fell dramatically during the 20th Century, Britain’s barn owl population is beginning to recover. Much of that is thanks to the work of conservationists providing safe places for breeding pairs to raise their young. Barn owls are cavity nesting birds; they don’t create their own nest holes and often use hollow trees. By installing these boxes we can mimic a natural nesting site and encourage these birds into our boxes. By doing so, we will then be able to monitor and record their breeding success.
We won’t be checking the boxes over the next few weeks though as these birds are very sensitive to disturbance, especially in the early stages of nesting season. Barn owls are given the highest level of legal protection possible under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is against the law to disturb a wild barn owl when nesting unless you are someone who holds a specific licence.
They often lay their eggs as early as March so fingers crossed our boxes will have lodgers in soon, we’ll keep you posted.