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You can help BirdWatch Ireland get a handle on the Barn Owl population in Clare this summer. Photograph by Richard Mills

Lend your eyes and ears to Clare Barn Owl population survey

The Barn Owl was once a much more common sight throughout Clare but in recent years has suffered widespread decline.

This summer, Birdwatch Ireland is conducting a survey of the barn owl population in Clare and is seeking the assistance of the public in its endeavours.

Have you seen a Barn Owl, do you know of a potential Barn Owl nest site or have you installed a Barn Owl nest box in Clare?

You can not report this information on Barn Owls in Clare to BirdWatch Ireland.

Over recent decades, Barn Owl populations have suffered widespread declines and are now a Red-listed Bird of Conservation Concern in Ireland.

As a top predator and sentinel species for the health of our countryside, the declines in Barn Owl populations are extremely worrying.

The intensification of agricultural practices has resulted in the loss of suitable Barn Owl habitats, including a reduction of prey-rich foraging habitat and nesting sites.

Alongside these land use changes and the loss of habitat, the increased use and toxicity of anti-coagulant rodenticides, and the expansion of major road networks are likely to be the main factors which have driven the declines in the Barn Owl populations across Ireland.

Although Barn Owl populations have dramatically declined over recent decades, there appears to be indications that Barn Owl populations may be increasing in certain parts of their Irish range.

However, it is not known whether this increase is reflected in the Barn Owl population of Clare.

The Clare Barn Owl survey, which will be undertaken by BirdWatch Ireland in partnership with Clare County Council supported by the Local Biodiversity Action Fund through the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, aims to establish how Barn Owls are currently faring in the county.

The findings of the survey will be used to ensure the protection of nest sites and to direct targeted conservation efforts.

This will include the provision of nest boxes, which BirdWatch Ireland will install in suitable locations throughout the county.

To assist the survey efforts, BirdWatch Ireland are requesting information on Barn Owls in the county.

John Lusby of BirdWatch Ireland explained the citizen science element of the survey.

“It is a very special experience to glimpse the ghostly form of the Barn Owl floating silently over their hunting grounds in the dead of night, or to hear their eerie screeches and strange snoring calls. Everybody who has been lucky enough to see this remembers such an encounter, and we are asking people to report this information to us, which will greatly help our survey efforts to locate nest sites and to determine the health of the population in Clare.”

He added, “We are also looking for information on Barn Owl nest boxes in the county, many different groups and individuals have gone to great effort to help Barn Owls in Clare and have installed purpose-built nest boxes.

“We hope to get a better idea of how many nest boxes are in place and the proportion that are being used by Barn Owl, and we would ask that anyone that has put up a nest box to let us know.”

According to Congella McGuire, Heritage Officer, Clare County Council is delighted to be able to facilitate this survey and work with BirdWatch Ireland to understand more about Barn Owls in Clare and to assist in their conservation with the provision of Barn Owl nest boxes in suitable locations.

You can help the survey and conservation efforts by reporting any information that you have on Barn Owls in the county by visiting the BirdWatch Ireland website at the link provided below.

As part of the project, BirdWatch Ireland will also be installing nest boxes in suitable locations, for example, quiet or disused hay barns.

If you think you have a suitable location for a Barn Owl nest box, you can register your interest at the link at the bottom of the page.

BirdWatch Ireland also stress that Barn Owls are a protected species and can be very sensitive to disturbance, and that potential nest sites should never be approached or interfered with in any way.
To report information on Barn Owls in County Clare, please visit here.

To report a possible location which is suitable for a nest box, please visit here.

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