Cheshire Wildlife Trust is calling on members of the public to support its new appeal to raise £20,000 to help the barn owl
With its distinctive heart shaped face and ghostly form, the iconic barn owl was a common sight in Cheshire almost 100 years ago, but is now one of our most threatened species.
Vulnerable to the impact of changes in agriculture, loss of feeding habitat and adverse weather, this much loved farmland bird has suffered a severe decline in Cheshire in the past century.
Farm and Gowy Manager at the trust Ben Gregory said: “Barn owls need meadows and field margins where they can hunt for small mammals on which to feed, plus nest sites such as hollow trees and barns.
“Over time their hunting habitats and number of natural nesting sites have plummeted due to changes in agricultural practices and the redevelopment of old farm buildings. Those that do remain exist in isolation, often separated by busy roads, making travel between hunting grounds and nest sites perilous and increasing the number of road traffic deaths.
“Summer 2013 was the worst on record in recent times for barn owls in Cheshire, with just 19 pairs recorded, down 80% on the previous year. Although 2014 saw their numbers, thankfully, increase they’re still nowhere near the 1930s peak of 240 breeding pairs.”
The trust believes that by providing connected landscapes and wildlife corridors the barn owl can be given a fighting chance.
Ben added: “We know that by providing healthy, joined up habitats, or ‘Living Landscapes’, wildlife can thrive. With public support we can continue to look after high quality habitats to ensure that barn owls have good food supplies and places to nest on our nature reserves and by working with farmers and local barn owl groups.
“Any amount, no matter how big or small, makes a significant impact. £10 pays for 1m of hedgerow where small mammals, the barn owl’s food source, lives, and £25 helps to maintain a barn owl box which can provide a nesting sanctuary to this bird of prey.
“A donation of £50 funds us to influence planners and developers to ensure the best outcome possible for barn owls, while £100 helps us to look after larger habitats for small mammals, and £500 maintains barn owl flight corridors, ensuring safe passage between hunting grounds.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about the weather but by investing our resources in managing their habitat so that they can feed and nest we can make barn owls more resilient to nature’s other challenges.
For more information about the appeal, and to make a donation, visit www.cheshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/barnowlappeal
Five barnstorming barn owl facts:
· Adult barn owls eat four to six small mammals each night
· They like fast food - voles, mice and shrews
· They swallow their prey whole
· Undigested fur and bones are coughed back up as a pellet
· Male barn owls give gifts of food to females during courtship.