Tourism and conservation working in partnership.

Barn owl boxes and breeding success

In 2015 we awarded the North Cumbria Barn Owl Study Group a donation from our Small Grants Fund, and we are delighted to start 2016 with these stunning photos.

The North Cumbria Barn Owl Study Group are dedicated to studying and supporting this beautiful bird, and monitoring the nest sites is a very important part of the work that they do.

Thanks to the grant from Nurture Lakeland, 121 sites were visited at least twice in 2015. At many sites, three visits were necessary to ring the young owlets. Ringing is a very important tool when studying this beautiful nocturnal owl, and much has been learned through the recoveries of ringed birds.

Of the 121 sites visited, 88 had barn owls present, and 56 had successful bred that year. On average, each breeding pair raised 3 chicks, however there was no second brood in 2015. The Barn Owl Study Group think that this is because of a lack of the the barn owl's main prey item - the short tailed field vole. A depletion of prey was expected because the abundance of the vole follows a 3-4 year cycle, and 2014 had been an exceptional breeding season and one of the best on record across the UK. 

As well as checking the sites, the group ringed 167 young owls, and collected information about 72 previously ringed birds. Ringing the birds enables the study group to learn about the breeding habits of this magnificent bird, and helps them to make decisions about how to better help them in the wild.

For example, by looking at the recapture data of barn owls ringed as nestlings and later found as breeding adults , they found that 81% were breeding within 15km of where they were born.

"This information allows us to contact land owners within the breeding range and, if suitable, put up a nesting box. This approach has been very successful over the years." says Ian Armstrong, secretary of the group.

For more information on our Small Grants Fund, and the businesses that support amazing projects like this, visit our project page.

A fully fledged barn owl being carefully taken from a box. It will then be ringed and checked before being returned to the box.


A new box being attached to beams. The entrance holes in the gable end make this an excellent building for a box.