Mid Cheshire Barn
Owl Conservation Group
 
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Causes of death

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Causes of death
 
The barn owl is often tempted to hunt along canal sides, railway embankments, river banks and roadside verges for the prey which inhabits these grassy corridors. To take advantage of these hunting grounds the barn owls have to cross or fly along roads and railways and its low-level drifting flight invariably results in a high level of mortality from collisions with road traffic as many roadside hedges are quite low. In Cheshire this is the highest cause of death for adult barn owls and allowing hedges to grow high enough to force the barn owls to fly higher than the traffic would be beneficial. There are less than 10,000 barn owls in Britain & Ireland and between 3,000 & 5,000 road deaths a year.
 
Death can also occur when consuming prey contaminated with rodenticides, particularly in areas where the new more potent poisons have been introduced or are misused.
 
Drought and flooding affect the prey population and Barn owls do not fair well in long periods of freezing conditions. Starvation is a reported cause of death of adult barn owls and shortage of prey during the breeding season will inevitabley result in a low number of owlets surviving.
 
Fledglings are also often found dead on the floors of barns or beneath trees, having fallen from the nest. If you find a distressed young barn owl beneath a nest site don't take it into care, place it back in the nest. Young owls often appear lethargic in daylight but are usually only awaiting the arrival of the adults with food. Every year many owlets, mistakenly thought to have been deserted by their parents, are taken unnecessarily to bird rescue centres. (Barn owls which are found injured, however, should be placed in a dark box and kept in a warm place until veterinary advice can be sought.)
 
On farmland, drowning in steep-sided water tanks is also a commonly reported cause of mortality. Tanks are attractive bathing sites but having vertical sides provide no means of escape for a bird which very rapidly becomes waterlogged. Drowning can be avoided, however, by covering water tanks with wire mesh, or by floating a close-fittinq plastic raft cut from an old bakers tray in drinking troughs. This allows livestock to continue to drink but enables barn owls to escape.
 
Recording deaths and injuries can provide vital conservation information so if you become aware of either of these events then please Send a sighting report to us.
 
All images Ian Philip Jones, no permission to use any of them is implied.