Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Another Bad Barn Owl Day

This is in danger of becoming an unwelcome habit, but after Saturday's road casualty I found another dead Barn Owl yesterday. This one wasn’t a victim of a road accident as I found it in a partially wooded area at Out Rawcliffe. When I turned the body over for a closer look there was with a single large hole in its body, so readers of a squeamish disposition may wish to look away now. 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Not a pretty sight. It looks as if one of the crow family, and probably a Carrion Crow as there are plenty of them about here, found a freshly dead Barn Owl then pierced the carcass to take out the best bits, the heart and liver. It has been documented in the past that crows do this and they are not labelled “Carrion Crows” without good reason. 

Carrion Crow

The Carrion Crow is one of the cleverest, most adaptable of our birds and although this seems a particularly gruesome habit it is an example of nature in one of its rawest moments. So now there are two dead Barn Owl to pass on to Lancaster University where they will be tested as to cause of death (known in one case), but also for any secondary causes and/or remains of rodenticides/pesticides. 

The coldest months of January to March are known as a time of year when many birds have  difficulties finding food whereby many literally starve to death. The days and nights have been very cold of late, the coldest March for 50+ years. Barn Owls have been especially active recently suggesting that they are having to spend longer hunting in order to sustain themselves through the cold but to also build up reserves in readiness for the breeding season. 

With the nesting season due to start this may be an opportune time to remind readers of the law regarding Barn Owls, particulalry as a number of bird watchers and photographers choose to ignore or "forget" the rules in their preoccupation with Barn Owls and other birds with special protection.

Barn Owl

Most bird species have some protection by law, Barn Owls and their nest sites are specifically protected. The Barn Owl is specially protected under Schedules 1 and 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is illegal to kill, injure or take a wild Barn Owl or to take or destroy its eggs. It is also illegal to check nest sites or even to disturb a Barn Owl while it is at or near a breeding site - unless you hold a special licence. (Usually March to October is considered the breeding season, but they might breed at almost any time of year). 

Any study or disturbance of Barn Owl nesting sites requires a “Schedule 1 Licence” which can only be obtained through official government bodies or agencies - usually Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage or Northern Ireland Environment Agency or British Trust for Ornithology. The Schedule 1 scheme monitors where the observers are operating, and tries to ensure that no site is visited by more than one group of observers 

It has been a bad few days for Barn Owls, at least for me, so I hope the breeding season is a good one for them. 

In the meantime stay tuned to Another Bird Blog for both bad and good news about birds or take a look at Stewart's Photo Gallery from Australia where there could well be a Barn Owl or two.


Isidro Ortiz said...

Hello Phil,que pena ver a si a estas bonitas Lechuzas,espero no te vuelvas a encontar mas en esas condiciones.Un abrazo

TexWisGirl said...

sorry for the loss of the barn owls. i could use some here to catch some mice for me (lost our barn cat last year and the rodent population is rising fast!)

Carletta said...

Such sad news of the loss but I really appreciate the info. I don't particularly like crows but they do have a job to do. I think viewing and reading your blog today we have to always remember that and that nature is what it is.
Hope your bird watching episodes are better this week.

Kay L. Davies said...

Sorry about the loss of another barn owl, Phil. Winter can be so cruel, at least in the eyes of humans.

HansHB said...

That's nature. Sad but life goes on!
Great photos and great Reading too!

grammie g said...

Hey Phil...Well that's a bummer,especially since I don't even get to see one!!
I imagine the food chain goes on, and everything has to eat!! The Carrion Crow has gotten his chosen part,so now the University can use the rest for study, which is good, but it is hard when it is such a beautiful bird!!
Now I saw your last post too, and it looks like there is a run of bad luck for these cutie's, and for Phil... Your not bringing any bad karma to these cutie's are
you !! ; )
Your born in the USA friend

eileeninmd said...

Phil, it is sad you found another dead Barn Owl. It is against the rules of our Maryland birding listserve to mention a nesting site of any kind of owl. It is a shame there are people that harass the birds to get a photo. Great post on the Crow and the owl. Happy Birding!

mick said...

Very distressing to find two dead owls so soon. While I was reading your post the local crows were calling outside my back door. They are clever birds and one of the few birds that have found a way to eat the poisonous toads that were introduced into this country years ago.


shame about the subject but it happens , great blog.


Millhouse Photography said...

I can't believe it. Truly saddening. It sounds silly, as every Barn Owl is special, but I hope it's not one that I came to love so dearly at O. Rawcliffe.

You are so right: The reason that we can see them so easily at this time of year is because they are trying to stay alive - we need to remember that.

Unknown said...


I found a dead Great Black-Back with a similar hole not too long ago! At the time I had no idea what it was from and assumed it had been hot.

Thanks for setting me straight! Shame about the Owls though, glorious birds.


Chris said...

Wow that's very bad! Yeh it is nice that they are protected but often people don't know! Nice to remind them. None of our owls are protected but the white tailed eagle is.

Kenneth Cole Schneider said...

That's sad, to again see a Barn Owl that met an untimely end. All the regulations in the world will not keep them from flying in front of vehicles.

Karen said...


Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Nature red in tooth and claw" .... What the crow does is part of nature, but I am sorry for too many owl deaths.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Very sad that you found yet another casualty in the Barn Owl family...wow. I have only seen one live Barn Owl and never dead ones along our highways, though many a Barred and Great Horned Owls are killed by cars. I wonder how this one died...you are not saying the Crows killed it, but ate what was left after it had died. Just hoping that someone had not shot this beauty~

Russell Jenkins said...

Thanks for taking the time to explain the laws protecting Barn Owls, Phil. I hope you have no more sad finds and I especially hope that spring brings comfort and safety to all. I understand you have all had a long winter.

Gail Dixon said...

I really hate to hear that another barn owl was lost. :( Sad face on me right now. I wonder why birds remain in such cold climates...

Wally Jones said...

Well, very unfortunate to find two fatalities of such a vulnerable species. Hopefully, they will make up for it in the coming breeding season.
Interesting information on the protection they're offered.

The nice delivery person knocked on the door this afternoon and handed me a parcel from Princeton University Press.


Crossley's new Raptor guide will be very helpful. And autographed by the authors, too!


Stewart M said...

Thats a sad loss - but I can only hope it will be replaced by another bird during the year.

These are one of my favourite birds.

Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW- Stewart M - Melbourne

Stuart Price said...

My god they're dropping like flies.............

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