How you can help

Project officer and volunteer holding a barn owl boxProject officer and volunteer holding a barn owl box

Our changing agricultural landscape has resulted in dwindling numbers of small mammals and suitable foraging habitat for barn owls.

The intensification of agriculture, particularly the reduction of grassland habitat, the increased use of anticoagulant rodenticides and the increase in major road networks are all likely to have been influential in bringing about the significant decline in barn owls in recent decades.

As a farmer or landowner, there are many ways you can help bring this iconic bird back from the brink, from putting up nest boxes to providing areas of suitable grassland for them to hunt.

We would also encourage everyone to help by reporting sightings or potential nest sites, or by volunteering with our annual barn owl survey. 

Steps you can take to encourage barn owls

Provide areas of grassland that are not cut or grazed as this is the ideal habitat for foraging barn owls e.g. a fenced off strip alongside field boundary.

Hammer posts into the middle of suitable habitat to allow barn owls to perch and conserve energy while hunting.

Scatter grain near field boundaries to encourage rodents out of the hedgerows and into fields where barn owls can hunt.

Place log piles in old disused parts of your land to encourage mice out of hedgerows where barn owls can hunt.

Plant up disused areas of your land with trees and maintain thick, healthy hedgerows to contribute to the survival of the barn owl.

Build and put up a nest box either indoors in an open shed or outbuilding, or outdoors on a tree to provide nesting and roosting places for barn owls.

Avoid using rodenticides. If rodenticides are needed, they should always be applied using the general recommendations from the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (www.thinkwildlife.org.uk).

Support our work. Why not join Ulster Wildlife or make a donation, and help the barn thrive in Northern Ireland. You will also be helping to protect other iconic species and the wild places in which they find home.

Before starting any building work or tree maintenance on your land, make sure you look out for any signs of barn owl activity, to minimise disturbance.

Nest sites: signs to look out for

With so few known nest sites in NI, a vital component of barn owl conservation is the discovery of new nest sites and conservation of breeding barn owl habitats.

Barn owls are very elusive and predominantly nocturnal but there are some telltale signs that could indicate the presence of a barn owl nest site:

Droppings

 

Barn owls droppings are mainly white and they dry to leave a white chalky substance very similar to white-wash 

 

 

 

 

Pellets 

 

Barn owls regurgitate the undigested remains (mostly bones, teeth and fur) of their prey in the form of a dark coloured pellet that is often the size of your thumb but can vary significantly 

 

 

 

Feathers

 

The presence of any barn owl feathers indicates that the site was probably visited between May and November which is usually when barns owls moult

 

 

 

 

 

Noisy chicks

Barn owl chicks make an unmistakeable rasping snoring sound when begging to their parents for food. Listen out for this in summer months.

 

Record your sightings

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

Contact us 

If you have any enquiries concerning barn owl, email us at barnowls@ulsterwildlife.org

Helpful leaflets from the Barn Owl Trust 

Erecting your Nestbox
Nestboxes for use in Barns & Other Buildings
Nestboxes for use on Trees
Habitat Management