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Guernsey Barn Owl Survey

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Telephone: Guernsey Biological Records Centre on 01481 220365

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Images © Dave Carre

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

The survey was launched in December 2019 as a joint venture between the Ornithological Section and the Guernsey Biological Records Centre.  The original aim was to update information about breeding and roosting sites in Guernsey, ahead of a season of fieldwork in 2020 and to publish a report in late 2020 or early 2021. 

Covid-19 soon made us realise that this was never going to happen within the timeframe.  However, we start 2022 with optimism and plan to have a full season out in the field.  We now plan to publish a robust survey by the end of this year.

Why a survey now?

The 2019 habitat survey reported an alarming loss of grassland.  Rough grassland is the Barn Owl’s preferred hunting habitat.  If this is lost through changing land use, our Barn Owls cannot thrive.  At present we do not know what is happening to the island’s Barn Owl population.  This survey, together with ringing data, will establish baseline data about the number of breeding pairs and chicks.

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.
2 - Fieldwork
This will start in spring 2022 and continue through the summer and early autumn. The team will monitor known sites and other likely to check for signs of breeding.  This will be further supported by Chris Mourant who will continue to ring birds where permission has been given.  This gives us further valuable information about individual birds.
3 - Report
An interim report will be given to members of the Ornithology Section in spring 2022. 

A full report will be published after the fieldwork has been completed in late 2022 or early 2023.

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