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New chicks are a boost to barn owl numbers

Article Date: 2011-06-11   Source:   Comments: 0

Lincolnshire, England, U.K. - The owl population along three Lincolnshire rivers has been given a boost, with resident birds hearing the pitter-patter of tiny talon-toed feet.

Staff from the Environment Agency joined forces with the Wildlife Conservation Partnership last week to carry out checks of 50 owl boxes on the South Forty Foot Drain, River Glen and Bourne Eau, near Bourne, and the South Forty Foot Drain, near Sleaford.

The pole-mounted nest boxes were found to be home to 12 breeding pairs of barn owls and around 40 chicks. A nesting tawny owl with chicks was also found.

All chicks found during the two-day monitoring exercise were removed from the boxes and fitted with identification rings before being returned. The ringing was carried out by Alan Ball and Bob Sheppard of the Wildlife Conservation Partnership as part of a nationwide scheme run by the British Trust for Ornithology.

Adam Robinson, of the Environment Agency, said: ''The Environment Agency originally helped to install the boxes and assists with their ongoing monitoring and support. They were put up to provide additional nesting space for the birds as their traditional nesting sites in old barns and out-buildings have been lost.

''It is great to see that these amazing birds are making use of the boxes and we are delighted to play our part in helping to monitor their numbers.''

Bob Sheppard, Lincolnshire advisor to the WCP, said: ''These nest boxes have been monitored by the Agency for the past 23 years and hundreds of young barn owls have been born in these homes on poles.''

Barn owls, with their heart-shaped face, buff-coloured back and wings and white belly, are found throughout the UK. Their main prey are mice, voles and shrews and they are often seen hunting along river banks, roads and field margins.

Tawny owls are larger than barn owls and are brown with a ring of dark feathers around their face. They eat small mammals and rodents, small birds, frogs, fish, insects and worms. Tawny owls are nocturnal and less likely to be seen hunting than barn owls.

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