Barn owls’ wings can take up to 8-10 weeks to develop feathers that are large enough for flight. Therefore, depending on exactly when the eggs were laid, barn owls normally fledge mid-late summer.

Unlike some other species, young barn owls still rely on their parents long after they have fledged. At 11 weeks, the young are likely to have attempted their first prey capture but may still not be fully capable of catching prey consistently to survive.

The owls' nests are legally protected, and the young are still protected from disturbance no matter where they are. This protection against disturbance only ceases when the last owlet becomes independent.

It is a critical time for the young as more barn owls die in dispersal than at any other time.

Arguably autumnal months are the most important for barn owl young – like most young adults, they are often finding their feet in the big wide world.

Known as dispersal, once they have found their independence at about 13 weeks, barn owlets will rove further afield to find their own ‘home ranges’. Depending on when the eggs are laid, dispersal can be as early as late June or as late as December, but it is usually from August to November.

Used for hunting, roosting and breeding, the ‘home range’ of a barn owl can vary throughout the seasons. In summer months, when food sources are more widely accessible, a home range is roughly 350 hectares. However, in winter months when food is scarce barn owls will travel further, increasing their range up to 5,000 hectares (approx. 7,000 football pitches!)

Once a barn owl has found an area for its range it will find a breeding partner. The statistics suggest that it will remain there for the rest of its life and stay faithful to its mate. Barn owls are not territorial and may ‘share’ roost sites with other owls where their ranges overlap. This could mean that many generations of the same barn owl family may use the roost year after year.

At Bere Marsh Farm, the Victorian barn has housed a breeding pair of barn owls for the past 15 previous years. To limit disturbance to the barn owls, this place will be off-limits to the public as a dedicated and protected nesting site.

Under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000 amendments to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, the government introduced the concept of reckless disturbance which includes but is not limited to flushing a recently fledged, dependant young barn owl from its roost as well as blocking or drastically changing a bird’s normal access into its nest. 

Therefore, at Bere Marsh Farm, the planned restoration work will only occur when all barn owls are on another roost during the winter period and is aimed to be accomplished within a single week. These plans have been completed with guidance from The Barn Owl Trust.

Save the Barn Owl Barn at Bere Marsh Farm

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