Barn owl surveys are required if works could result in the disturbance of potential barn owl roosting or nest sites, even if the site itself will not be directly affected by the work (e.g. noise or lighting disturbance). Buildings and/or trees set amongst unsuitable barn owl foraging habitat can be used by barn owls, as the hunting range of an individual owl can exceed 3km.
Surveys would be conducted by an experienced and licensed CES ecologist, who would inspect any potential nest or roost site and the surrounding area for evidence of barn owl usage. Barn owl activity surveys may be required if substantial areas of suitable barn owl foraging habitat are to be lost.
Barn owls are birds of open habitats that usually hunt for small mammals which favour unmanaged vegetation found in rough grasslands, field margins and hedgerows. These once common habitats are becoming increasingly scarce, and this is thought to be a contributing factor, along with loss of nest sites, to the estimated 70% decline in the barn owl population since the 1930’s. Barn owls nest and roost in undisturbed areas of buildings, within deep cavities in trees, and increasingly within purpose-built nest boxes.
Barn owls are afforded special protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act, 1981 (as amended). In addition to the protection of all wild birds under the Act, species listed on Schedule 1 are afforded special legal protection when breeding; making it an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild barn owl whilst it is at or near a nest containing eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird.
Barn owls and development
Surveys by a licensed barn owl surveyor are required if works may result in disturbance to potential barn owl roosting or nest sites, even if the site itself will not be directly affected by the work (e.g. noise disturbance). Even buildings and trees set amongst unsuitable barn owl foraging habitat can be used as the hunting range of an individual owl, which can exceed 3km, therefore the potential presence of barn owls should be considered. In most instances, careful timing of the works and/or the provision of alternative nest/roost sites is sufficient to allow the development to proceed.