Suffolk barn owls recovering after 'terrible year'

Barn owl numbers in Suffolk are recovering after a "truly terrible year", Suffolk Wildlife Trust has said.

About 70 chicks have been recorded on its reserves this year, with some nest boxes "bursting at the seams" with young owls.

The trust said weather conditions in 2013 had decimated the owls' preferred prey, short tailed voles, and at one point 20 owls a day were dying.

It said owl populations can recover, given "sufficient habitat".

There are about 1,700 barn owl nest boxes across the county.

Last year on the Suffolk coast, where there are 75 boxes, only one brood of two chicks was recorded.

Of the 44 boxes checked this year, 20 chicks have been ringed, including two broods of six, which the trust said was "relatively uncommon".

'Marked change'

Head of conservation Dorothy Casey said last year had been "truly terrible" for barn owls.

"The wet weather conditions meant low numbers of voles and the barn owls were literally starving to death," she said.

"Already this year we are seeing a marked change."

She added while the population had been hit badly, those which survived were breeding.

"Their productivity, due to the abundance of food, is extremely high," she said.

"This year's results show that barn owl populations can recover well from adverse weather conditions providing there is sufficient habitat."

The British Trust for Ornithology estimates there are about 4,000 breeding pairs of barn owls in the UK.

It lists their conservation status as "amber", indicating the species is, or has recently been, in decline.

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