With heart-shaped face, buff back and wings and pure white underparts, the barn owl is a distinctive and much-loved countryside bird. Widely distributed across the UK, and indeed the world, this bird has suffered declines through the 20th century and is thought to have been adversely affected by organochlorine pesticides such as DDT in the 1950s and ’60s. Nocturnal birds like the barn owl are poorly monitored by the Breeding Bird Survey and, subject to this caveat, numbers may have increased between 1995-2008.
British Barn Owl populations declined markedly in the twentieth century as a result of intensification of farming. This decline was observed to be continuing between the Breeding Atlas period of 1988-91, but since then numbers have recovered strongly. Gloucestershire reflects this national trend. Their difficulty in surveying means that the significance of the decline and subsequent recovery may be understated in the records. Barn Owls are widely distributed across the county where there is suitable habitat. They’ve been recorded in over a quarter of county tetrads over the atlas winter periods. Current distribution maps suggest strong populations in areas to the west and south of Stow-on-the-Wold, in parts of the Severn Vale, and also in the Cotswold Water Park which holds about 25 pairs (nb that the Park extends in to Wiltshire).
Size, habitat and diet
Weight: M/F: 300g
World distribution: Europe, s Asia, Africa, Australasia, North and South America
Habitat: Open country, savanna, farmland
Diet: Small mammals (mice, small voles, shrews), some small birds, will hunt before sunset
An introduction to the Barn Owl (Barn Owl Trust)
Slow motion Barn Owl attack (Earth Unplugged)