Guernsey Barn Owl Survey 2020

Welcome to our new page.  Here we will keep you up to date with the 2020 Survey and how it is progressing.

The survey was launched on 9 December, a few weeks ahead of 2020 as we’ll be using the winter period to update our information.

Why a survey now?

Last month, Deputy Barry Brehaut in his statement to the States of Deliberation, said,

“A great deal more work is required to protect and enhance the island’s biodiversity.  There are several key areas that need further investigation, data analysis, and development, including bird populations.”

The Habitat Survey, published earlier in the autumn, reports an alarming loss of grassland which is the Barn Owl’s habitat.  They are birds of open farmland and rough grassland.  If their habitat is lost through changing land use, the owls cannot thrive.  At present, we don’t know what is happening to the island’s Barn Owl population.  The 2020 survey will help to establish robust baseline data about the number of breeding pairs.  You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Why Barn Owls?

Barn Owls are an indicator species.  This means any decrease in their numbers is an early warning sign that there are problems in the wider environment.  

Barn Owls are vulnerable.  In the rest of Great Britain they are the only owl with Schedule 1 status which gives them an extra level of protection, particularly during the breeding season.

Barn Owls are iconic.  After the Robin, the Barn Owl is Britain’s favourite bird.  It is very distinctive with pale, creamy plumage and cannot be easily confused with any other bird.

How will the survey work?

It has a three-stage approach.

Stage 1 – Desk Research

The first step is now underway and we are doing desk research.  Vic and Jill Froome have done a huge amount of work over the years, making boxes putting them up and recording what has happened.  He is an important member of the team as he has the most local knowledge, but he cannot manage it single-handed.  We are using his data as a starting point and will spend the next few months getting as much as we can up to date.

 We want to hear from anyone who has an owl box, knows the history of one or another site used for breeding. Most Barn Owl boxes around the island were put up several years ago. People may have a box either because they put it up or they moved to a property which already had one in place. Maybe a box has been lost because it has been removed or damaged in a storm. 

Every piece of information will help us to understand better the status of these iconic birds. 

Information needed is; 

1. Location – this will be confidential.  The road name, Perry’s guide reference or GPS will help us to map where they are on the island.

2. State of the box – even if it has been lost! 

3. Occupation over the past 2-3 years: Barn owls, Kestrels and Stock Doves are most likely to have used them.  We want information about any species.

4. If it has not been occupied at all.

Stage 2 – Fieldwork

This will start in early spring when the team will, over the spring and summer, visit known sites to check for signs of breeding.  We also plan to carry out a ringing programme which will give us further valuable information about individual birds.

Stage 3 – Report

Although we may not manage to visit all the sites, we will report back on what we have learned at the end of 2020 or early in 2021.  Any sites not visited in 2020 will be seen in 2021.

Contact us

To report observations of roosting or breeding sites, please,

Email: barnowlsurvey2020@googlemail.com or 

Telephone: Guernsey Biological Records Centre on 01481 715799

All emails and calls will be returned and all information will be treated in confidence.

Images © Dave Carre