Be there for Barn Owls

Barn owl (c) Jon HawkinsBarn owl (c) Jon Hawkins

‘Be there for Barn Owls’ project is a three-year Heritage Lottery funded project to help ensure the future of this threatened bird in Northern Ireland.

The barn owl is one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic species, but unfortunately one of the most endangered, with less than 30 to 40 breeding pairs estimated to be left in Northern Ireland.

After the worst breeding season on record last year across the UK due to a prolonged cold spring, we are hopeful that the recent good weather continues over the summer, when barn owls are rearing their young and searching for food for their hungry brood. 

The main reason for the barn owl's decline is the loss of suitable feeding and nesting sites. Without adequate rough grassland, there are fewer small mammals such as wood mouse and pygmy shrew for the barn owl to feed on. Rough grassland also encourages small mammals to break cover from the hedgerows and woodlands where they are concentrated, into areas where barn owls can hunt.

Our Barn Owl Officer, Catherine Fegan will attempt to address these issues by working with organisations and private landowners to help make small, inexpensive changes in the management of their land to help the barn owl thrive. She will also be raising awareness about barn owls with landowners and schools, and will be undertaking surveys to establish their location.

And she's not alone. We have a dedicated team of volunteer fieldworkers throughout Northern Ireland that have been trained up and are currently scouring the landscape for old buildings and mature trees where barn owls may be nesting.

How can you help

Sightings - If you have any information on barn owl nesting sites or would like to report a barn owl sighting, please click here to submit a sighting. Any reports will be treated with the utmost confidence.

Practical action - If you are a farmer or landowner and would like more information about practical actions you could take for barn owls on your land, please contact our Barn Owl Officer, Catherine Fegan on 028 9046 3112 or email

Volunteer - If you would like to help us survey for barn owls across Northern Ireland, please contact our Barn Owl Officer, Catherine Fegan on 028 9046 3112 or email

Follow us - Keep up-to-date with the project by following us on Twitter @BarnOwlsNI

Snoring barn owls on the Ards Peninsula

Two barn owl chicks making a rasping, snoring-like sound as they call to their parents for food. This nest box was erected by farmer Michael Calvert seven year ago and has been used succesfully by adult birds for a second year in a row.

Barn owl nest site in Co. Armagh 

We are thrilled to have captured this exclusive footage of a barn owl nest in Co. Armagh. The fledglings were very curious and as you will hear, there's no 'twit-to-woos', more snoring and high pitched hisses.

Information – elsewhere in UK and Ireland

  • Duhallow Project (BirdWatch Ireland) - This project monitors Barn Owl sites in NW Cork and E Kerry – this year is the worst since they started monitoring in 2006, at the beginning of August they had checked 17 sites and only 2 had chicks. These were late broods and will not be dispersing from nest sites until late September maybe even October.
  • Barn Owl Trust - According to reports across the UK, 2013 was the worst breeding season in 30 years due to a prolonged cold spring. They have 73 annually monitored sites that usually have a 51% success rate, this year it’s down to 12%. At those successful sites the average number of chicks is down from 5 to 2. The Guardian article/ barn owls extreme weather

Our thanks to everyone who donated to our previous Barn Owl Appeal - without your support this follow up project would not have been possible.


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