Barn Owl death survey

This winter’s snow and ice is having a devastating effect on local Barn Owl populations in Northumberland, especially in the uplands which have seen deep snow cover for several weeks and face the likelihood of more to come.

Barn Owls are unable to hunt successfully when there is snow cover on the ground and after three to four weeks can die in large numbers.

More than a dozen dead birds have already been reported to National Park Rangers but it is felt that these represent only a small proportion of those likely to have died.

Barn Owl - Pic NNPA

Barn Owl - Pic NNPA

The National Park Authority is asking people to come forward and report  any dead Barn Owls that they come across – especially ringed birds.

The information derived from rings, such as how far the birds travel and lifespan, can help experts understand more about them.

Birds should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and can be drop into a National Park Centre either at Rothbury or Twice Brewed on Hadrian’s wall.

Alternatively the information on the ring can be sent to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

Since the 1950s, the Barn Owl population has suffered from the loss of hedgerows and small woodlands and the trend for turning old barns into houses.


With the disappearance of these habitats of the small mammals that are the bird’s staple diet, Barn Owl numbers crashed, reaching an all-time low in the late 1990s.

As a low-flying bird, the remaining population has been further devastated by the increase in motor traffic and trunk roads cutting across its hunting grounds.

Northumberland National Park Authority has been supporting Barn Owls through the wildlife-friendly farmers of the Coquet Valley, Redesdale, Breamish and along the Hadrian’s Wall corridor since 2004.

Volunteers survey hunting grounds, install owl boxes in viable places and monitor populations. Local experts, Brian Galloway and John Steele, who are licensed to handle this protected bird, count the chicks and ring the birds.

Anyone with Barn Owls roosting in an outbuilding who would like to try to help them in the harsh weather, might want to leave out a little animal feed or grain in an open area in the building to attract mice and hopefully make easier hunting for the birds.

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