The Barn Owl is really suffering to locate food this winter
With still several weeks still to go before this winter is over Barn owls are showing signs of a shortage of food. With continuous rain and flooding even ‘Winterwatch’ claimed that even mice populations were crashing in many part of Britain. Disappointingly the presenters of this programme did not raise the connection with so many birds of prey ending up in rehab stations, especially Barn Owls; of course the reason was a lack of food!
Image courtesy of Terry Pickford
Many bird clubs and natural history societies are seeing a surge of records of Barn owls hunting through the day which does not match the normal, and with 3 continuous days of rain forecast for the coming week the owls will suffer even more. Day time hunting by Barn Owls gives this species an additional potential problem to contend with, their food being stolen by Kestrels and Buzzards. Barn owls are even predated by species like Goshawks taking the birds in daylight.
Yesterday Saturday 6 February, one of our followers contacted us to report she had witnessed 3 individual barn owls hunting between 1pm and 2.05 pm. She recorded the first owl south of Lancaster on Cockerham moss. A second owl was the seen 20 minutes later flying over fields near out Rawcliffe west of Garstang. A third owl was then observed at 2.05 pm flying across the road at Scronkey near Pilling.
Barn Owls photographed at Out Rawcliffe 6 February 2016
Last year’s disastrous breeding season for the Barn Owl will leave few birds to replace the ones lost this winter. A dry spring with plenty of warm weather are needed to replenish mice and vole populations giving this bird a chance for a successful breeding season as alternative food is limited for this species. The decline in voles could potentially have a detrimental effect on short-eared owl numbers as well. Below we have added a capture of a short-eared owl hunting on farmland at Scronkey near Pilling this morning by Terry Pickford.
Image courtesy of Terry Pickford, shot with a ‘camera’ and not a ‘gun’.
Please report any sightings of daytime Barn Owls to your local bird club so a full picture across the UK can be established.