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The Barn Owl Trust

Conserving the Barn Owl and its Environment

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What to do if you find a dead or ringed owl

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Barn Owl dead in snow 8

On discovering a dead owl there are two main things you need to try and find out. What species of owl is it, and does it have a small ring on one of its ankles?


There are four different types of ring that the owl might have fitted. If it's a wild owl that you have found it could have a British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) ring. This is a silver-coloured metal ring with a unique number inscribed on it and the words ‘INFORM BRITISH MUSEUM NAT HIST LONDON, SW7'. See left side picture below for example of a BTO ring and click on the image to enlarge to full size. If it's an escaped captive-bred bird that you've found it may have a closed ring which is a continuous alloy band or possibly a plastic cable tie, these both have individual numbers inprinted on them. See right side picture below for an example of a closed ring and click on the image to enlarge to full size. Captive owls may also be micro-chipped. Any owl may also have one or more plastic colour rings. For a more detailed description please refer to our leaflet Rings and Ringing.

BTO Ring Closed Ring

The page ‘Owl identification' may help to determine what species the owl is. Once you have established this and (if ringed) what type of ring it is you now need to know who to contact. If it has a BTO ring you can report it to the Natural History Museum in London or directly to the British Trust for Ornithology (see Links). Ring recoveries can also be reported on-line via Euring (see Links). If you have found a BTO-ringed Barn Owl in southwest England please report it to the Barn Owl Trust .


This information helps to provide us with much-needed data on the survival and mortality of wild Barn Owls in the South West area. When reporting a ring number, don't worry too much if you don't know what species the owl is - report it anyway. Unringed dead owls do need to be species-identified and should be reported to your county record centre, this might be called the biological or biodiversity record centre, or can be found through your county council or your county wildlife trust. Please report all unringed dead Barn Owls in southwest England to the Barn Owl Trust (see ‘Contact us' link to the right).


If you come across an owl with a closed ring it means that it is captive-bred and should be reported to the Independent Bird Register (see Links page). If you think there is anything suspicious about the cause of death of the owl (for example poisoning or avian flu) then it should also be reported to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Please be aware of hygiene if handling dead birds and always wash your hands afterwards. If you are going to preserve the owl for a while and freeze it make sure that it is well wrapped up in carrier bags or sealed in an air tight container.


What to report

When you report the finding of an owl you should give details of:

The ring number (if any)

Exactly where it was found (a map reference if possible)

If found on a road, the road number (e.g. A38)

Date found

What species it is (if you know)

Whether fresh or not

Other relevant information about the bird or the finding circumstances

Your name and contact details


Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme

The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology runs the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS), which is a long-term national monitoring scheme looking at levels of contaminants in raptor species. Therefore, they would like to receive dead birds of prey that are found by the public. Please telephone Lee Walker on 01524 595830 or email leew@ceh.ac.uk. For more information, please click on the link in the right-hand margin.



If you find a perfect specimen and you want to have it stuffed you should freeze it in an airtight container to avoid freezer-burn and don't wrap anything around it that may bend the tips of its wing or tail feathers. Birds that have growing feathers (young ones or adults in the period March to October) are generally less suitable for taxidermy. Retain evidence that the owl died by accident, for example, take a picture of the owl where it was found. You must use a taxidermist who has a current licence issued by DEFRA.

The Barn Owl Trust is dedicated to conservation & education and does not operate a visitor centre.
Barn Owl Trust staff and volunteers
Waterleat, Ashburton, Devon TQ13 7HU
+44 (0) 1364 653026