Barn owl numbers plummet in Northern Ireland
Barn owl numbers are thought to have plummeted in Northern Ireland following their worst breeding season in more than 30 years.
Ulster Wildlife is now calling for members of the public to submit sightings of the threatened bird after revealing that only 30 breeding pairs are thought to be left.
It said the species suffered its worst breeding season in more than three decades due to a prolonged cold spring last year.
Through its Be There For Barn Owls project, supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, Ulster Wildlife says it wants to give the bird a fighting chance for survival by working with farmers and landowners to ensure there is enough rough grassland for barn owls to hunt and breed, as well space for them to nest.
"We are urging everyone to give our barns owls a helping hand by contacting us with sightings of this beautiful bird or signs of their presence, such as nest sites or pellets," Ulster Wildlife's barn owl officer Catherine Fegan said.
"The long days and warm summer evenings are a perfect time to watch out for this almost ghost-like bird," she added.
The barn owl is nocturnal and will hunt at dawn and dusk, its favoured hunting habitat being rough, ungrazed grassland.
If you have seen a barn owl or have any information, contact Catherine at Ulster Wildlife on 028 4483 3977 or email email@example.com.
All information will be treated sensitively and can be kept confidential on request.
In Northern Ireland, the barn owl is one of just two species of owl that breed here, the other being the long-eared owl.
It is an elegant bird of prey with a distinctive white, heart-shaped face, honey coloured back and wings and luminous pale underparts. They are also known to be excellent rat and mice catchers.
Barn owls can be seen hunting around dawn and dusk and are generally found on lowland farms, where they hunt mice, shrews and rats over rough grassland and along field margins, roadways, riverbanks, hedgerows and woodland edges.