With their heart shaped faces, caramel back and wings, and pure white underparts, the barn owl is a distinctive and much loved countryside bird.  This owl, which has proven so successful at living along side humans, has undergone a significant population decline since last century.  Agricultural intensification, hunting habitat loss, susceptibility to traffic and loss of traditional nesting habitat in hedgerow trees and traditional barns have all affected the barn owls long term survival.

The Tees Valley Wildlife Trust is about to begin a new project to support the barn owl population in East Cleveland. The Nest Box Network Project is supported by funding from Northumbrian Water’s Branch Out Scheme and National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A big advantage for barn owl conservation is that they readily and successfully take to artificial nest boxes. The project aims to work with land and property owners to establish a network of natural and artificial nest boxes across the area. The network will be based on existing nest sites and the erection of new barn owl boxes to help boost the barn owl population. All the nesting sites will be monitored annually by licensed volunteers to establish occupancy rates.  Owlets will be ringed to support barn owl population studies. The information on the barn owl monitoring results will shared among participating land and property owners so they can see how their individual efforts are supporting the wider population success.

“Our aim is to generate the most detailed picture of barn owls in the Tees Valley” said Kate Bartram of the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust.  “By working with licensed volunteers and landowners a landscape view of barn owl breeding and habitat use will emerge for the very first time. The creation of a nest box network and long term monitoring will enable us to help ensure barn owls survive and thrive for future generations”.

Stuart Pudney, Conservation and Land Manager for Northumbrian Water said: “We are delighted to be able to support this Nest Box Network Project through our Branch Out Scheme. This is a fantastic and worthwhile project that will help to support the population of barn owls in the area, and it’s great to see there will be opportunities for the local community to get involved. “

In addition the project will collect information on barn owl diet and changes in relative abundance of different prey species: mice; voles and shrews, through the analysis of the contents of owl pellets. This analysis will also help our understanding of the regional distribution of the rarely seen harvest mouse. 

Public engagement in the form of walks, talks and engagement with young people in the creation of a barn owl mosaic is another element to the project.

If you are a land or property owner in East Cleveland and have barn owls nesting or a nest box on your property and would like to support this project, the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust we would love to hear from you.

For more information on the project contact:

Kate Bartram   Tel: 01287 636382 or email kbartram@teeswildlife.org