Local help needed to keep watch on Limerick barn owls

CALLING all night owls – BirdWatch Ireland is undertaking a survey of barn owls in Limerick this summer and are asking for help from the public and local landowners to determine the health of the population in the county.

According to BirdWatch Ireland Barn Owl Research Officer lan McCarthy, the Barn Owl was once a much more common sight in Limerick but has suffered widespread decline over recent years and is now a red-listed ‘Bird of Conservation Concern’ in Ireland.

“The intensification of agricultural practices has resulted in the loss of suitable Barn Owl habitats, including a reduction of prey-rich foraging habitat and nesting sites,” he said.

The good news is that Limerick seems to be one of the few places in the country where the species numbers are rising.

“In recent years in Limerick, Barn Owl pairs have moved into nest boxes provided for them in the county and re-established in old ruins, which have not held Barn Owls for many years.

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“One of the reasons for this recovery may be due to the range expansion of non-native small mammal species, the Greater White-toothed Shrew and the Bank Vole, both of which are favoured prey of the Barn Owl and are now widespread throughout the city and county,” Mr McCarthy explained.

The Barn Owl survey in Limerick, which is supported by Limerick City and County Council through the Local Biodiversity Action Plan Fund, aims to establish how Barn Owls are currently faring in the county.

The findings of the survey will be used to ensure the protection of nest sites and to direct targeted conservation efforts, which will include the provision of nest boxes to help the local population.

Anyone who has seen a Barn Owl, know of a Barn Owl nest site or have installed a Barn Owl nest box in Limerick is asked to share that information to BirdWatch Ireland here