Current UK Barn Owl population

2018

Early indications are that 2018 will be another mixed year for Barn Owls in the UK – Snow and low temperatures in March are likely to result in the absence of birds at some sites and birds breeding late in others. However, the number of young in nests may well turn out to be above average given that Tawny Owls appear to be having a very productive year. Barn Owls in West Cornwall are breeding about three weeks late but on Jersey the earliest broods fledged by mid June.

How many Barn Owls are there in the UK?

Nobody knows for sure. The only reliable UK Barn Owl survey estimated the population at almost 4,000 pairs (+/- 30%) in 1995-1997 (Toms et al. 2000).

From 1997 to 2009 the number of Barn Owl sightings recorded by the BTO Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) increased dramatically – strongly suggesting a population increase. Since 2009 BBS has recorded a 63% decline in Barn Owl sightings. However, BBS is only a daytime survey. Its reliability as an index of Barn Owl abundance is debatable, particularly as an increase in Barn Owl sightings by day is usually a sign that the birds are struggling to find enough food. An entirely separate project, the Barn Owl Monitoring Program, recorded a 50% drop in the number of nests in the period 2000  to 2009 but this figure is also thought to be unrepresentative. In summary, nobody knows how many Barn Owls there are in the UK. Population estimates produced since 2000 are not reliable.

AMBER to GREEN. In 2015, Barn Owl was moved from the Amber List in Birds of Conservation Concern 4 to the Green List – not because of any change in the UK population level but simply because an updated European Birds of Conservation Concern (SPEC) list was not available at the time. Since then Birdlife International (2017) European Birds of Conservation Concern has been published and Barn Owl is still listed.


2017 Barn Owl numbers

The most up-to-date figures are in our report: State of the UK Barn Owl population 2017 based on results provided by 38 independent monitoring groups including new data contributors in Cheshire and Glamorgan.

Overall 2017 was a good year for Barn Owls but with some notable exceptions. Across most of England and into mid Wales Barn Owls had a generally good to very good year. However, Barn Owls had a relatively poor year in West Galloway, West Cornwall, and the Isle of Wight. Those on Jersey experienced a very poor year and in Northern Ireland Barn Owls are still very scarce.

New report – ‘State of the UK Barn Owl Population’

Data was kindly provided by the following groups:

Barn Owl Trust
Bisham Barn Owl Group
Brandon Ringing Group
Broxton Barn Owl Group
Bucks Owl Raptor Group
Cam Valley Wildlife Group
East Cheshire Barn Owl Group
East Riding Barn Owl Conservation Group
Essex Wildlife Trust
Garry Steele
Gil Gaylor
Glamorgan Barn Owl Group
Gloucestershire Barn Owl Monitoring Programme
Jersey Barn Owl Conservation
Lewis Raptor & Owl Group
Manchester Raptor Group
Merseryside Ringing Group
Mid Cheshire Barn Owl Conservation Group
North Cheshire Barn Owl Group
North-east Cheshire Barn Owl Group
North West Norfolk Ringing Group
Philip Hanmer; Natural History Society of Northumbria (Hancock Museum) Ringing Group
Powys Species Habitat Protection Group
Scottish Raptor Study Group
Shropshire Barn Owl Group
South Cheshire Barn Owl Group
South Warwickshire Barn Owl Survey
Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group
Stour Valley Wildlife Action Group
Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project
Sussex Ornithological Society – Barrie Watson
Sussex Ornithological Society – Graham Roberts
Thornham Owl Project
Ulster Wildlife
West Berkshire Countryside Society Barn Owl Group
West Cornwall Ringing Group
Wirral Barn Owl Trust
Wolds Barn Owl Group


2016 Barn Owl numbers

The State of the UK Barn Owl Population 2016 report shows that, overall, 2016 was a poor year in most areas but generally better in the west of England.

The data received from 32 monitoring schemes checking 6,058 nest sites shows that the number of nesting pairs in the UK in 2016 was 6% below the all-years average and the average number of young in the nest was 7% below. Barn Owls had a poor to very poor year in South West and South England, Jersey, North Norfolk, parts of Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, parts of Powys in Wales and West Galloway in Scotland. Conversely, Barn Owls in the west of England (from Cheshire down to Buckinghamshire), and in North Northumberland, Suffolk, and the Isle of Wight had a quite good to good year.

Data was kindly provided by the following groups - click to open:

Barn Owl Trust
Bisham Barn Owl Group
Brandon Ringing Group
Bucks Owl Raptor Group
Cam Valley Wildlife Group
Cheshire Barn Owl Groups
East Riding Barn Owl Conservation Group
Essex Wildlife Trust
Garry Steele
Gil Gaylor
Gloucestershire Barn Owl Monitoring Programme
Jersey Barn Owl Conservation
Lewis Raptor & Owl Group
Manchester Raptor Group
North West Norfolk Ringing Group
Philip Hanmer
Powys Species Habitat Protection Group
Scottish Raptor Study Group
Shropshire Barn Owl Group
South Warwickshire Barn Owl Survey
Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group
Stour Valley Wildlife Action Group
Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project
Sussex Ornithological Society – Barrie Watson
Sussex Ornithological Society – Graham Roberts
Thornham Owl Project
Ulster Wildlife
Vale of Bevoir Barn Owl Conservation
West Berkshire Countryside Society Barn Owl Group
West Cornwall Ringing Group
Wolds Barn Owl Group
World Owl Trust


2015 Barn Owl numbers

The State Of The UK Barn Owl Population 2015 report, for the first time, includes information from Northern Ireland. Overall, 2015 was a poor year for Barn Owls almost everywhere.

The checking of 5,963 potential nest sites by 32 independent groups across the UK revealed that the number of nesting pairs was 26% below average and the average number of young in nests was 18% below average. However, the number of nests was slightly to moderately above average in Manchester, Cheshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, and Suffolk. The only areas where mean brood size was above normal were West Cornwall and Somerset. The generally poor results were attributed largely to a lack of food rather than the weather.

Data was kindly provided by the following groups - click to open:

Barn Owl Trust
Bisham Barn Owl Group
Brandon Ringing Group
Bucks Owl Raptor Group
Cam Valley Wildlife Group
Cheshire Barn Owl Groups
East Riding Barn Owl Conservation Group
Garry Steele
Gil Gaylor
Gwyn Roberts
Hawk and Owl Trust
Jersey Barn Owl Conservation Network
Lewis Raptor & Owl Group
Lower Derwent Valley NNR Barn Owl Group
Manchester Raptor Group
North Cumbria Barn Owl Study Group
North West Norfolk Ringing Group
Pang Valley Barn Owl Group
Powys Species Habitat Protection Group
Scottish Raptor Study Group
Shropshire Barn Owl Group
South Warwickshire Barn Owl Survey
Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group
Stour Valley Wildlife Action Group
Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project
Sussex Ornithological Society – Barrie Watson
Sussex Ornithological Society – Graham Roberts
Ulster Wildlife
Vale Barn Owl Conservation
West Cornwall Ringing Group
Wolds Barn Owl Group
World Owl Trust


2014 Barn Owl numbers

2014 was an exceptionally good year for Barn Owls almost everywhere in the UK. The checking of 6,558 potential nest sites by 25 independent groups across the UK revealed that the number of nesting pairs was 16% above average and average number of young in nests was 35% higher than the all-years average. See State of the UK Barn Owl population 2014.

Data was kindly provided by the following groups - click to open:

Barn Owl Trust
Bowden and Ball Ringing Group
Brandon Ringing Group
Cam Valley Wildlife Group
East Riding Barn Owl Conservation Group
Cheshire Barn Owl Conservation Groups
Hawk and Owl Trust
Gil Gaylor (Isle of Wight)
Imber Conservation Group
Manchester Raptor Group
Montgomeryshire Barn Owl Group
NW Norfolk Ringing Group
Pang Valley Barn Owl Group
Powys Species Habitat Protection Group
Scottish Raptor Study Group
Shropshire Barn Owl Group
Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group
Stour Valley Wildlife Action Group
South Warwickshire Barn Owl Survey
Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project
Sussex Ornithological Society – Barrie Watson
Sussex Ornithological Society – Graham Roberts
Vale of Belvoir Barn Owl Conservation
West Cornwall Ringing Group
Wolds Barn Owl Group


2013 Barn Owl numbers

2013 was an extremely poor year for Barn Owls – described as ‘the worst year since records began‘. This prompted the Barn Owl Trust to collate results from 26 independent Barn Owl monitoring groups around the UK and produce State of the UK Barn Owl Population 2013.

All groups reported a drop in the number of breeding pairs. The drop in numbers varied from a 24% decline to 100%. The overall drop in nesting occupancy was 70%.

Data was kindly provided by the following groups - click to open:

Alan Ball, Bob Sheppard, G Steele (south Lincs.)
Barn Owl Trust
Barrie Watson (West Sussex)
Buckinghamshire Owl Raptor Group
Cam Valley Wildlife Group
Cheshire Barn Owl Groups
Hawk and Owl Trust – Chris Sperring
East Riding Barn Owl Conservation Group
Imber Conservation Group
James Gloyn & Gil Gaylor (Isle of Wight)
Jersey Barn Owl Conservation Network
Lower Derwent Valley NNR Barn Owl Group
Manchester Raptor Group
Montgomeryshire Barn Owl Group
North Cumbria Barn Owl Study Group
Northamptonshire Barn Owl Project
NW Norfolk Ringing Group
Pang Valley Barn Owl Group
Scottish Raptor Study Group
Shropshire Barn Owl Group
Staffordshire Barn Owl Action Group
Stour Valley Wildlife Action Group/South Warwickshire Barn Owl Survey
Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project
Suffolk Owl Sanctuary – Thornham Owl Project
Vale of Belvoir Barn Owl Conservation Group (VBOC)
West Cornwall Ringing Group
Wolds Barn Owl Group

*Please note that the ‘State of the UK Barn Owl Population‘ is a Living Document which may be updated as more information becomes available.

UK Barn Owl population news

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