Saving Britain's Owls

At the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, we are often asked about the best way to ‘attract owls’. In particular, this is often by those who used to see Barn Owls in their area but feel they are no longer there; or think they have suitable local habitats for Barn Owls and wish to attract them to their vicinity.

In simple terms, in order for a pair of Barn Owls to survive and breed successfully, they need in the region of 120 acres of permanent rough tussocky grassland over which they can hunt and catch their preferred prey, the vole. This area should not include grass that is cut or grazed as it will drastically reduce the vole population necessary to sustain a pair of breeding Barn Owls. 

Though not as successful in sustaining breeding Barn Owls, other forms of ungrazed terrain - bog/moss; woodland edge, field margins or headlands; river or canal banks; dykes and ditches; disused quarries or railway embankments, plus new or young woodland plantations - can contribute to a successful habitat. 

Barn Owls also then need a suitable nest site e.g. a seldom-used or undisturbed barn or building; a hollow isolated tree, or a suitably-located man-made nestbox. 

If there have been Barn Owls in your area in the past, ask yourself why it is they are no longer there. Perhaps there have been changes to local agricultural practice - for example, revised land usage or increased stock grazing which may have decreased the bird’s food supply. Have new roads been built nearby, leading to increased mortality through death caused by traffic? (Did you know over 60% of all known Barn Owl deaths occur on the roads and it is estimated that over 3000 birds are killed in this way every year?) Have possible nesting sites like old trees or disused farm buildings been destroyed, or an old man-made nestbox fallen into disrepair?

Having reviewed the situation, if you feel that you have the correct habitat that will support a pair of Barn Owls, and you would like to encourage them, the first and most simple step is to erect properly constructed nest-boxes at suitable sites, please take a look at our new free publication “Saving Britain’s Owls”, which can be downloaded from this website or by requesting a hard copy