Calling local bird lovers: have you seen a Barn Owl?

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Ulster Wildlife has launched an appeal for sightings in Coleraine of one Northern Ireland’s most threatened birds – the barn owl.

Last year, the barn owl suffered its worst breeding season in over 30 years due to a prolonged, cold spring, and now the charity fears that numbers in Northern Ireland may have plummeted.

The barn owl was once a common sight in our countryside, but now there are thought to be less than 30 breeding pairs left here. Extreme weather, loss of suitable feeding and nesting habitat, combined with the build up of toxins from consuming poisoned prey are the main reasons for the bird’s decline.

Through its ‘Be there for Barn owls’ project, supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, Ulster Wildlife wants to give this iconic bird a fighting chance for survival, by working with farmers and landowners to ensure there is enough rough grassland for barn owls to hunt and breed, as well space for it to nest. “We are urging everyone in to give our barns owls a helping hand by contacting us with sightings of this beautiful bird or signs of their presence, such as nesting sites or pellets,” said Catherine Fegan, Ulster Wildlife’s Barn Owl Officer.