Falkirk Council

Falkirk Council
Telephone: 01324 506070

Barn Owl nest box scheme

Barn owl
The Falkirk Area Biodiversity Partnership is running a project to help conserve our local Barn Owls. These farmland birds are becoming increasingly rare, but we can help by providing suitable nesting and feeding sites for them. The project aims to find out where these birds occur in the local area and, where needed, provide suitable nest boxes.

The project started in 2007 with 8 land owners agreeing to the installation of 8 boxes.

In 2009 consultant Mike Steward was invited to give a talk on Barn Owls to the Planning & Environment Department. He also visited existing Barn Owl box sites to give advice on how best to locate a box. Every box was checked with one box having been used by Barn Owls. However we were too late to ring the chicks as they had by then left the nest.

Barn Owl being ringed
From Mike's recommendations we began to make a few changes and relocate some of the boxes. With the permission from landowners additional boxes have also been put up and to date we now have 17 boxes in situ, 10 internal boxes and 7 external boxes.

We have also found many sites where Barn Owls have been roosting allowing us to build up a bigger picture of the distribution of the birds over the Falkirk area.

A local bird ringer Phil May has agreed to visit all the Barn Owl boxes with us this year in the hope of there being some new Barn Owl chicks which we can ring. This will be very exciting as this will be the first time to our knowledge chicks have been ringed in the Falkirk area.

Kestrel chick
In June 2010 we checked all the Barn Owl boxes and confirmed 3 boxes are being used by Barn Owls and the fourth box is occupied by Kestrels. The Kestrel was ringed and a total of 13 Barn Owl chicks will be ringed this year.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the landowners for their co operation and patience in helping us to get this project off the ground.

We are looking for more sites to install Barn Owl boxes so if you see regular sightings of Barn Owls in your area or would be willing to have a Barn Owl box installed in an outbuilding or tree on your land, please contact the Ranger Service at rangers@falkirk.gov.uk|.

The boxes are supplied, fitted and maintained at no cost to the land owner.

2013 Update

We set out in June to check all the boxes and to our delight we were able to ring the first Barn owl chick and the adult another first for Falkirk. The other boxes had eggs and one had 3 very small chicks. The kestrels were also raising a brood.

We returned in the July to ring the chicks, unfortunately the adults appeared to have abandoned the eggs and the small chicks had gone, we then decided to check the chick we ringed in June it was found dead in the box we assume to starvation.

On a happier note we were able to ring the Kestrel chicks which were also colour coded by Central Scotland Raptor Study Group another first. Although the success rate of fledged chicks has been poor, on a more positive note 5 pairs of Barn Owls have attempted to breed in our boxes this year, and all this data will help paint a picture what is happening to the population in Falkirk.

A small group of volunteers have formed to help the ranger service take the project forward by putting up more boxes, monitoring and cleaning them out. If you would like more information about the group activities please contact secretary lesley.sweeney@falkirk.gov.uk| Tel no; 01324 504950

2012 Update

This year we set out to check the boxes in mid June. As usual we were full of anticipation, however it quickly became apparent this would prove a disappointing year.

Two of our breeding pairs failed to hatch their brood of four eggs each. We do not know exactly why this happened one possibility was the continual torrential rain in the following weeks causing the parents to abandon their eggs because they found it difficult to hunt for food.

Unfortunately two of the Kestrel boxes were taken over by jackdaws and pigeons. However on a happier note two boxes were successful and our third kestrel box successfully raised a brood. As we approached the location five Kestrels flew away from the box. A missed ringing opportunity.

When we checked our last breeding box three Barn owls flew out of the box. A second missed ringing opportunity.

This would suggest that this was another successful year for them as they wouldn't have all been adults. Perhaps they were three fledged chicks! As a result no chicks were ringed this year.

On a beautiful sunny day in December we gave the boxes a good clean out and plan to set out a little earlier next year and hopefully ring chicks before they fledge.


2011 Update

Over the winter of 2010 we installed another 4 boxes bringing the grand total to 21 boxes.

We set off in June to look at last year’s successful boxes and new sites from 2010 to see how a second hard winter had affected the Barn Owls. At first it was not looking good where we had owls last year they had not bred again this year. But 1 box did have Barn owl chicks and we ringed 4 of them as they were old enough and last year we only ringed 3 from that same box.

We also found that kestrels had taken over one of the boxes where the owls had bred previously and we ringed 4 kestrel chicks in that box and to our delight we went on to ring another 4 kestrel chicks that day.

The most successful box of 2010 where we ringed 5 chicks only had 1 adult Barn owl present in the box. They may have lost their mate during the winter, and it may be defending the box so next year we may find some chicks once again.

We set off again the following week to check the rest of the boxes and to our amazement we found another brood of Barn owls 6 in total all huddled together like a big white fluffy ball and another brood of Kestrel chicks which we recorded and the 6 owl chicks were ringed.

We removed 2 boxes from sites as a farm cat took a liking to one of them and the other we have not had any success of any kind. However we do have several sites lined up for this coming winter so busy times ahead!

Kestrels like the Barn Owl have fluctuated in numbers as they are closely linked to vole numbers. A survey conducted by BTO showed a decrease in their numbers by 36% 2008 – 2009.

Numbers had already fallen since the 1970’s believed to be due to intensive agriculture reducing the vole habitat, however the reason for the recent decline is still unclear. As a result we are quite happy for Kestrels to use our boxes we only wish the chicks were more obliging in letting us ring them without trying to catch us with their talons!

Again many thanks to local landowners and Phil May for making this project possible.

  • Total Barn owls ringed 2010 =11
  • Total Kestrels ringed 2010 = 1
  • Total Barn Owls ringed 2011 = 10
  • Total Kestrels ringed 2011 = 8
  • Total Barn Owls ringed 2013 = 1 chick, 1 adult
  • Total Kestrels ringed 2013 = 3 chicks
Falkirk Council Ranger Service
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