Owls are probably the most recognised, short-eared owls often hunt during the day. They are also one of the most recognised birds of prey. You would think that these magnificent birds would be okay with no natural predators. But of course, humans have messed everything up. Most of this info is edited from research at the site of Barn Owl Trust, but the info presumably applies to all birds of prey, except species-specific information. If you have a barn, rescue owls or work in local town planning, roads or energy, visit their site for detailed information and handbooks.
Barn Beauty by Catriona Hall
- Lack of habitat is a major concern, especially as many people buy cheap nestboxes that do more harm than good (owls don’t nest like other birds, so if you don’t build or buy the right one, they may lay eggs on damp floor, which means babies could die). Barn Owl Trust has important tips, to ensure you choose the right design for nest boxes, which must be sited properly (not near traffic) and sited well to avoid owlets falling out. It’s very important to read info on nestboxes (cleaning etc) otherwise it could do more harm than good. The natural habitats for owls are hollow trees & barns.
- Owls eat rats (garden writer Alys Fowler says ‘If I am to love owls, then I must learn to live with rats’). By leaving rats alone and letting owls and foxes eat them (or terrier ‘ratting dogs’), this leads to nature in balance and quick humane deaths, rather than rat poisons, which kill owls in their thousands.
- Around 5000 owls are killed on UK roads each year, mostly because they fly too low. Barn Owl Trust has a free guide to encourage town planners to build a 2m screen of trees and shrubs, which would force hunting birds to fly higher, so avoid cars.
- Many birds of prey drown in open water. Use secure water butts like Even Greener or The Original Water Butt Co (small spaces). For deeper liquid (including cattle troughs), you can make a float (watch the video). Floating a piece of wood does not work, they say.
- Barn owls often are electrocuted by flying into overhead wires. Ideally they want the cables insulated, and bird diverters may also help (used to stop swans flying into overhead cables).
- Owls don’t store fat in cold weather (nor have waterproof feathers) so can’t hunt well, if they get wet. So climate change is causing extreme weather (floods, heatwaves etc) that not only makes life difficult, but is also impacting field voles & common shrews, two species that form part of their diet.
- Fracking (extracting shale gas) may be loved by Trump, but it’s awful for wildlife. Not only is it dangerous and polluting (and can cause cancer to nearby people) but it’s noisy and affects owl habitats.
- Large ground-mounted solar panels prevent little collision risk, but the grass below and around them should be allowed to grow to encourage foraging (Barn Owl Trust suggest rough tussocky grassland with a litter-layer. Most in the UK have bare ground. Solar power towers are not good, but rarely used in the UK. Wind turbines rarely kill owls (but they do sometimes kill other birds and bats, although modern bladeless turbines are becoming more commonplace).If you do find an injured or dead owl, you can report to Barn Owl Trust.
Owl Sense is a beautifully written book by Miriam Darlington, who begins a quest to identify every European species of this elusive bird, while on ‘owl walks’ with her teenage son. From Britain she travels to Europe and the frosted borders of the Arctic, whilst entangled in a search for a cure for her son’s mysterious illness. Longlisted for the Wainwright Prize, this book is wonderful. Also read up on how to help our birds of prey.
Miriam’s journey begins with ‘owl walks’ that she takes with her son, leading to a mission to identify every European species of this charismatic and elusive bird, on a journey that will take her from southern Spain through France, Serbia and Finland and the borders of the Arctic. Author Dr Miriam Darlington is a lecturer in English and Creative Writing.
In her native Lapland during the summer months, there is no night-time. And in the winter, she must rely on her ears for months of darkness. Then, something startled her. As her wings filled the air, I heard nothing but the whisper of snow falling in thickets of spruce and pine. What can a writer do, faced with a world whose wildness appears to be unravelling?
The first thing perhaps is to get to know the wild, experience it, and pay attention to it. Taking the trouble and the time to explore the ecological details of some of the most fragile species (and to record them accurately on the page) is the least we can do. Dr Miriam Darlington
Keep Pets Safe Near Birds of Prey
The best way to keep small pets safe is to stay with them at all times, offer cover for outdoor pets to run to, exercise pets together and feed pets indoors. The Spruce has useful tips on how to keep pets safe from birds of prey. In the USA, they have more issues, as there are much larger birds of prey and open land. There are inventions that people can put on the back of dogs to stop talons digging in, but they have mixed reviews, as some dogs find them uncomfortable, and they don’t protect the head.
How to Rescue Birds of Prey
Branching out by Catriona Hall
Don’t just pick them up. You’ll need thick gloves to avoid getting injured. Although your local wildlife shelter can provide some advice, for birds of prey it’s best to call the specialists:
- Raptor Rescue
- Raptor Foundation
- Corio Raptor Rescue & Rehabilitation
- Barn Owl Trust
- Help Wildlife has useful info on what to do, if you find an injured bird of prey or baby bird of prey.
Matt’s Book on Our Charming Owls
Owls: Our Most Enchanting Bird is a beautifully illustrated book to our native owls by pop artist Matt Sewell. He’s also a really interesting quirky writer, you’ve never seen bird information books like this.
Author Matt Sewell is a keen birdwatcher and talented author and artist, who has published several best-selling fun guides to birds both here and around the world. His art has been exhibited worldwide, and his illustrated appear on postage stamps on the Isle of Man.
His mellow single hoots sound like the subdued ‘woofs’ of a dog who’s trying very, very hard not to wake you. Or you may hear his deep, persistent chuckle: whatever the joke, he finds it hilarious.
The Northern Saw-Whet Owl is an absolute darling: a permanent look of surprise, spread across his adorable little face.
To be honest; owls aren’t the brightest of birds. Amazing as they are, parrots & crows are much smarter. It’s all in the eyes; those magnificent piercing optics are what make all owls look like they are steeped in long-lost knowledge.
Owls are Cool is a book to teach children the difference, between types of owls. Can a burrowing owl (who can’t fly) and a snowy owl (who can’t run) ever be friends? Oscar is a cool owl (they do not fly but run – zooom!) So when snowy owl Reggie comes along (swooping and swooshing through the sky), Oscar’s not impressed at all. But when Reggie crashes into a tree, Oscar discovers that maybe they are not so different from another, after all…
The Book of the Barn Owl is a read about one of the most mesmerising and elusive icons of the countryside. Few of us know what goes on after dark, underneath the moon. Sally shines a light on the barn owl in this book about one of England’s favourite birds.
With its heart-shaped face and silent graceful flight, the barn owl sighting is a thrill – hovering along a hedgerow or sweeping over a stubble field. But how much do we really know about this sublime tenant of the night? The barn owl lives on a yearly see-saw of feast and famine, companionship and solitude.
Full of fascinating insights, conservation advice and the latest research, this affectionate and timely guide also tells the story of a barn owl’s early life – from first pip of the shell to leaving the nest- a fascinating time in this captivating creature’s journey.