The Wicklow Barn Owl Group needs your help

The Wicklow Barn Owl Project is currently underway and is looking for members of the public to get in touch to help improve the prospects for this endangered bird in the county.

The project is a collaboration between Wicklow County Council, National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), Birdwatch Ireland and the Wicklow Raptor Group with additional funding support from The Heritage Council through the County Heritage Plan Fund.

Overall aim is to better understand the owl’s distribution in Wicklow and to work with landowners to implement practical protection measures.

The project has two elements: firstly, gathering baseline information on the Barn Owl population in Wicklow through undertaking a county survey, and secondly installing nest boxes in suitable locations to improve breeding habitat. For both of these elements, the project co-ordinators are seeking engagement from the public in county Wicklow.

Commonly known as the ‘Farmers Friend’ a Barn owl’s diet relies to a large extent on rodents, with one bird estimated to take 2,000 prey items in a single breeding season. The Irish name ‘Scréachóg reilge’ relates to its screeching sound at nightime, traditionally associated with the Banshee, and its habit of nesting in old churches and other ruined buildings.

One practical measure that can be taken to encourage Barn Owls is the installation of specially designed nest boxes to compensate for the general lack of large trees and old disused buildings in our countryside.  The project is seeking to install nesting boxes in suitable locations throughout the county and invites landowners/ homeowners to get in touch if they have seen Barn Owls near them and would like to host a nesting box on their property.

Currently there are very few records of Barn Owls in Wicklow and the project partners are appealing for members of the public to help fill this gap by reporting anecdotal sightings (past or present) either through the dedicated  page at; www.facebook.com/Wicklow-Barn-Owl-Group   or by e mail to wicklowbarnowlgroup@gmail.com, or by telephone or text to Oran O Sullivan (county surveyor) at  087 2339280.

The Wicklow Barn Owl project will be one of the features in the upcoming ‘Let’s get buzzing – Community Action Day’ in Roundwood on Saturday, 9th April.

For more information see: www.wicklow.ie under latest news or contact Deirdre Burns, Heritage Officer, on dburns@wicklowcoco.ie.

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