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Help save Kent's barn owls

PUBLISHED: 19:26 04 October 2014 | UPDATED: 19:26 04 October 2014

Barn owl (by Phil Haynes)

Barn owl (by Phil Haynes)

Archant

Kent Wildlife Trust is looking to raise vital funds to help curb the decline of one of our most cherished animals

A century ago, barn owls 
were a common sight - a familiar and well-loved 
part of our countryside.

But now they are in trouble. The almost complete loss of natural grasslands, loss of nesting sites 
and the effect of agricultural chemicals 
has caused barn owls to decline by three-quarters in the UK, virtually disappearing from many parts of Kent.

And not only that; the few remaining natural grasslands exist in isolation, 
often separated by roads, making 
travelling between hunting grounds 
and nest sites even more perilous 
(road deaths are the most frequently recorded cause of barn owl mortality).

With these beautiful birds already 
under pressure, the impact of a cold 
winter can spell disaster.

The recent series of hard winters 
and the long, harsh spring of 2013 
resulted in a shocking threefold increase 
in reported deaths of barn owls just 
before the breeding season, with 
numbers reaching an all-time low.

We can’t do much about the weather, but we can help increase the numbers of barn owls in Kent by ensuring that they have large areas of high quality habitats for feeding and nesting, to give them the best chance of survival – whatever the weather.

These are challenging times for 
barn owls. Over the last 60 years, 
97 per cent of lowland grasslands 
(over which they hunt) and 50 per 
cent of hedgerows (which harbour mice, 
shrews and voles) have been lost.

There has also been a marked increase in the use of chemicals such as rodenticides. Old barns are being converted and with 
a lack of hollow trees due to Dutch elm disease, ash die back and other causes, nesting sites are in decline.

But Kent Wildlife Trust believes that 
this doesn’t have to be the end of the 
story for barn owls in Kent.

We know that, given the right conditions, wildlife can bounce back from adversity. A landscape with healthy, joined up wildlife habitats is the essential first step. n

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