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More homes for barn owls in the Ouse Valley

A grant from the Volunteer Conservation Fund, managed by the South Downs Trust, has enabled a volunteer led project to install six barn owl boxes and three little owl boxes around the Lower Ouse valley.

A barn owl flying with a small rodent in its talons
Barn owl hunting – Richard Murray

Barn owls are a protected species throughout the British Isles, and are offered additional protection during the breeding season. Barn owl populations have benefitted from the erection of nest boxes and through appropriate habitat management.

triangular barn owl box installed on tree trunk

The Sussex barn owl population remains static and requires encouragement to increase. Sussex Barn Owl Study Group (SBOSG) are a group of volunteer bird ringers and nest recorders who monitor barn owl boxes throughout Sussex.

Many of the boxes have been installed by South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) over the last few years and the study group monitor and maintain the boxes alongside the National Park ranger teams.

In 2023, the group successfully applied for funding from the Volunteer Conservation Fund to cover more homes for owls in the Ouse Valley area of Sussex. The fund is managed by the South Downs Trust alongside the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service. The image above shows one of the barn owl boxes successfully installed on a tree (credit – SBOSG).

This project will enhance the work already undertaken to conserve barn owls and will also encourage little owls through the installation of little owl boxes. Little owl populations have decreased by 65% in the last 25 years but as an ‘introduced species’ they unfortunately do not enjoy additional Wildlife and Countryside Act protection like their barn owl cousins.

A Little Owl Chick preening with Dad
A little owl chick preening with Dad – David Jeffery

More than 90% of UK barn owls now breed in boxes. Little owl boxes will help to encourage breeding birds. The boxes will be monitored and maintained annually by SBOSG and the National Park rangers. Any occupants will be ringed by licensed permit holders, with all ringing and monitoring data stored on the British Trust for Ornithology database and therefore shared with local recorders and Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre.

More information about the Volunteer Conservation Fund.

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