Barn Owls in North Devon
Latin Name: tyto alba
With an estimated UK population of around 4000 breeding pairs this beautiful and graceful owl also known as the Screech Owl (due to its call), is a much threatened species, needing our help.
The vast reduction in suitable farmland habitat since the Second World War has caused the numbers to dramatically decline from over 20,000 pairs.
Suitable Barn Owl Habitat – Dunsdon Farm North Devon
In North Devon, and at Dunsdon we are lucky to have breeding Barn Owls (viewable on our Owlcams), Dunsdon Farm and adjoining Dunsdon National Nature Reserve have ideal rough grassland habitat, with a plentiful supply of Field Voles (They’re favourite pray).
For the last two years we have been lucky enough to have had pairs of fledgling owls, our owl boxes. Sited inside one of our large stone barns, our boxes provide a safe and warm environment for them to rear their young, and with the excellent cameras supplied by and linked to our holiday cottage and Quarry Pods monitors our guests are able to view their comings and goings.
Luxury pet friendly accommodation in Devon is available at Dunsdon Farm, with nearby access to the Dunsdon National Nature Reserve.
The Distinct Look of The Barn Owl
Plumage: The plumage covering the head, back & outer wings are of a rich apricot colour; scattered with silvery blue mottling & the frontal area & under parts of the wings are of pure white, eyes are black & surrounded by a distinctive white facial disk that is heart-shaped.
Female Markings: Distinctive black speckling on frontal area under wing parts & a distinctive dark pencilled line around the facial disc together with an apricot coloured necklace.
Male Markings: Under parts & facial disc are of pure white.
Hearing Capabilities: Barn Owls mainly hunt by sound rather than by sight. With its acute hearing the Barn Owl can detect the slightest movement & sound of its prey. The ears are set asymmetrically, meaning one ear is higher than the other. The ears are located under the feathering of the inside edge of the facial disc, located next to the eyes. The facial disc acts as an amazing sound funnel, collecting & filtering sound. This allows the Owl to detect the movement of its prey with complete accuracy.
It is said that a Barn Owl can actually hear a mouse’s heartbeat in a 30ft sq room.
Diet: The main diet for the Barn Owl is the short-tailed Vole; other rodents include shrews, wood mice & young rats. During times of food shortages Barn Owls will also take small amphibians.
Favoured Nest & Roost Sites: Old barns, tree hollows and nest boxes.
Threats to Barn Owls
With the low number of owls still left in the wild, Barn Owls need all of the help we can give them.
Loss of Suitable Habitat
The biggest threat to the owls is the loss of suitable habitat, the rough grasslands and rough verges which once formed parts of many farms have now been ploughed drained and re-seeded with unsuitable species.
Nearly every owl will contain varying levels of poisons (which at the very least weakens their immune system) ingested from mice and rats that have themselves taken bait. A review of farms vermin control and the use of Owl friendly rodenticides will do much to reduce this problem..
Not so much in this part of North Devon, but in other parts of the county and country many owls will die in road traffic collisions, many of these could be avoided by greater thought given to road layouts, verge designs and maintenance – the simple measure of putting higher hedges close to the roadside brings the low flying owl up and “out of harms way”.
Further Information on Barn Owls
The Barn Owl Trust: www.barnowltrust.org.uk
Devon Wildlife Trust: www.devonwildlifetrust.org
To Learn More About Barn Owls in North Devon
Stay at our Five Star Dog Friendly Cottage in Devon
Dunsdon Farm offers accommodation in a luxury pet friendly cottage in Devon, with three bedrooms and sleeping six. Apart from being able to view the Barns Owls flying the surrounding fields you may also be able to view the owls on our owlcam monitors linked to The Old Shippon – our five star pet friendly self catering in Devon.