Barn Owl Populations and Monitoring  
Help with New Conservation Schemes

It is important to get things right, so this is a very big Fact-file!

First, you need to know whether it is worth putting a box up.
You may not be in a suitable place for a Barn Owl box. So find out more about habitat needs in our Fact-files, and click on the CONSERVATION animation on our Home Page. (We can send you a leaflet if you need something on paper.)

You will not get Barn Owls nesting without good habitat, with enough prey to support them. Ideally they will be using the site to breed, and so naturally they need lots of food available to raise a family.

Barn Owls are birds of open land - not mature woodland. They are more common in lowland areas, but occasionally nest higher than 150 metres above sea level.
They need about 120 acres (50 hectares) of rough grass habitat in which to hunt for prey. This may be whole fields of lightly-grazed meadows with tussocky grass, or fields in long-term "Set-Aside"; or strips along field margins, unmown verges along country tracks, riverbanks or canal sides. They will also hunt rough grass along woodland edge, fencelines and hedges.

Where there are new plantations of woodland, Barn Owls can use the long grass between trees, while the habitat is still open.

Areas of good habitat also need to be connected, so that Barn Owls can travel into new territories and young barn Owls can disperse away from their parental nest site.

'Where Why and How does it go up?'
This is where you have a number of things to consider, especially safety. Decide whether your Barn Owls need an 'A-Frame' tree box, or an indoor box. You also need to place the box in a suitable position.
If indoors, the building must allow the owls 24-hour access to the box, preferably with a clear flight path to more than one means of entry and exit from the building.
Boxes obviusly need to go in a convenient position for the birds, but not next to repeated human activity, with the box entrance placed at right angles to sunlight, drafts or wind.

If outdooors, a pair of the weatherproof A-frame design are going to be the best bet, placed 3 or 4 metres up on suitable trees (or occasionally a building wall has to be used). Trees should be isolated hedge trees, field trees or very prominent ones on the edge of a wood. Make it very visible to Barn Owls, next to hunting habitat.
The best position is usually on the trunk, close to perch-able branches if possible (to help fledgeling owlets) but NOT obstructed by any foliage when the tree is in full leaf. Face it away from prevailing winds and sunlight if possible.

  • You should consider buying the publication "Boxes Baskets and Platforms" if you really want to learn about providing nest sites for birds of prey. The section on Barn Owls is a good few pages of this 40-page booklet, telling you how to put them up safely, and successfully, with exact details on how to make your own boxes.

    The book is only 5.75 including postage within the UK. Contact us for details.

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