Current UK Barn Owl population

For many years the Trust has undertaken a programme of Barn Owl nestbox monitoring in the late spring and early summer. This provides useful data on nestbox occupancy and absence rates and, where Barn Owls are nesting, productivity data on brood size and egg-lay date. Young are ringed at around 4-8 weeks of age and recoveries of birds gives information on longevity, dispersal distance and cause of death.

2018 Barn Owl monitoring progress

Hopes for a productive breeding season in 2018 had rather been tempered early on by the wet late winter period. Devon was the wettest County in the UK in March, experiencing its 4th wettest March since 1910, and with rainfall totals more than double the average for that month. In addition, the whole of the UK experienced two significant bouts of snow and freezing conditions within 2 weeks of each other. The first – the ‘Beast from the East’ – met Atlantic Storm Emma on the 1st, dumping significant amounts of snow on the County courtesy of a gale force easterly air-stream straight out of Siberia. Cold and wet weather in the late winter period has more influence on Barn Owl productivity than any other variable according to the British Trust for Ornithology. Prolonged snow cover and freezing conditions at this time can often lead to increased winter mortality.

With this in mind, we started our Annual Monitoring Site (AMSITE) visits in early June rather than late May, as we suspected that First Egg-lay Dates would be delayed at best. What followed came as something of a surprise, as many traditional Barn Owl sites were occupied by pairs of birds, with many nesting attempts underway. We were right however in that these attempts appeared to be generally 2-4 weeks later than the long-term average of mid-April. Despite this late start provisional figures for nesting occupancy in 2018 (59%) was higher than the 1990-2015 average.

2018 Breeding Season summary

Brood sizes appeared to be about average during June, but final analysis of the ringing results show brood size also slightly above average.

In summary then, with slightly higher than average nesting rates and brood size, the impact of the bad weather on the population as a whole appears to have been much less damaging than we had been feared at the outset; all in all a reasonable year.
Barn Owl population news updates

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.

The Barn Owl is still listed as a bird of ‘Conservation Concern’ in the recently published Birdlife International (2017) European Birds of Conservation Concern. However 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.


2017 Barn Owl numbers

2017 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

Back to top