Wicklow Barn Owl Project 2022

Wicklow Barn Owl group installing a specially designed Nesting box
Damian Clarke
Nest boxes can be attached to trees in suitable locations to compensate for the lack of natural holes and crevices
Damian Clarke
Wildlife in Buildings by BWI can be downloaded or posted out by request (see below)

The Wicklow Barn Owl Project is currently underway and is looking for help from the public to  improve the prospects for this endangered bird in Wicklow. The overall aim of the project  is to better understand the owl’s distribution in Wicklow and to work with landowners to implement practical protection measures to improve its breeding chances.

**UPDATE: Watch our short video ‘Wicklow Barn Owl Project‘ produced for Heritage Week 2022 for an update on progress**

Countywide survey

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.

The county Wicklow Barn Owl Survey will establish how many pairs of the endangered species are present in Wicklow. The survey  will help us to understand the Owl’s conservation requirements and will involve working with landowners to ensure the protection of Barn Owl nest sites.

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.

Farmers Friend

This project notes the importance of Barn Owls to local farmers.  It is estimated that a Barn Owl can take 2000 prey items, mainly rodents in a breeding season. Therefore, the positive impact that the presence of Barn Owls has on individual farming practices should not be underestimated.  It is no surprise then that the Barn Owl is known as the ‘Farmers Friend’.  We hope to receive many anecdotal reports of sightings of Barn Owls, past and present from landowners and members of the public.

Part of our cultural heritage and folklore

The Barn Owl is intrinsically linked with our  cultural heritage anbd folklore. The Irish name ‘Scréachóg reilge’ refers to its screeching sound at nightime, a sound which is thought to have given rise to ‘the Banshee’. Reilge (graveyard)  is a reference to the bird’s  habit of nesting in old churches and other ruined buildings.

Through this work, we hope to encourage many landowners and interested volunteers who can implement practical conservation measures to benefit Barn Owls and wider rural biodiversity.

Specially Designed Nest boxes

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 modern day 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.

How to get involved?

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  facebook page 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.

For more information

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.  Come along to find out more.

Access ‘Wildlife in Buildings – Linking our built and natural heritage‘ by Irene Sullivan and John Lusby. Published by  Birdwatch Ireland on www.wicklow.ie, or request a hard copy by e mailing wicklowheritage@wicklowcoco.ie and giving your posal address.

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