Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Just 30 pairs of barn owls left in Northern Ireland

Eight-year-old Ben Kennedy with PK at the launch of the barn owl appeal by the Ulster Wildlife Trust

The number of barn owls in Northern Ireland has dropped by nearly 90% over the last 80 years, with just 30 breeding pairs estimated to be left here.

Now the Ulster Wildlife Trust is calling on wildlife lovers to stand up for nature and ensure the future of this magnificent bird is secure.

The conservation charity is embarking on a major campaign to promote the welfare of barn owls with the estimated number of breeding pairs in Northern Ireland dwindling from around 250 in the 1930s to about 30 now.

The reasons for this dramatic decline includes habitat loss, the destruction of nest sites in trees and old buildings, agricultural intensification, and consumption of pest control chemicals left to kill rodents.

In 2012, the Ulster Wildlife Trust (UWT) plans to install barn owl boxes and monitor activity using remote cameras. The charity is also going to train volunteers to carry out surveys, educate communities living in owl hot spots and work with landowners to offer them free advice on practices that are beneficial to barn owls.

Conor McKinney, living landscapes manager with the UWT said to fund this, the charity is asking its 11,700 members and the wider public to dig deep to help raise £10,000 by January.

“I will never forget the first time I saw a barn owl,” Mr McKinney added. “The almost mystical glow that radiated from it when the moonlight illuminated the golden hue of its feathers was truly breathtaking. It was the start of a life-long fascination.”

Belfast Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile was also at the Harbour Commissioner’s Office to help launch the appeal. “By taking action now, we can make a big difference,” Mr O Donnghaile said.

To make a donation or for further information visit: www.ulsterwild|lifetrust.org/barnowl

Factfile

The barn owl (tyto alba) is Northern Ireland’s most iconic owl species. Barn owls’ ears are asymmetrical. One is slightly higher than the other to help it pinpoint moving prey. They have specially adapted soft wings to fly silently and have been recorded at speeds of up to 50mph. The best times to see them is at dusk and dawn, when they are most active.

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