Barn Owls

Durham Priority Species
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Barn Owl Action Plan

Priority Species: Barn Owl

Maintain and seek to increase existing populations and range of barn owls in the DBAP area.
2. Increased provision of barn owl nesting sites / nest boxes in appropriate undisturbed locations in good barn owl habitat to encourage range and population expansion.
3. Provide suitable habitats to ensure the long-term success of barn owl populations in the DBAP area.
4. Reduce barn owl road casualties on major roads.
5. Continue monitoring of barn owl populations

Barn Owl Targets
Vision Statement: For barn owls to occupy a larger range and in increased numbers

Target Type Unit Value
1. To expand the range of barn owl in the Durham BAP area. expand breeding pairs 80

The barn owl is an iconic species of less intensively managed farmland, feeding on small mammals found in rough grassland. It is largely active at dawn and dusk, and roosts in trees and buildings, laying eggs in tree cavities, barns or other draught-free buildings. Barn owl is widespread in the UK, but suffered a more than 50% decline in the latter half of the 20th century. The main factors in this decline are thought to include loss of rough grassland due to intensive farming, poisoning by pesticides, persecution and high winter mortality in severe winters. An increase since the mid 1970s in breeding success and survival rates corresponds to a decline in the levels of organochlorine pesticide residues in barn owl corpses.

Local status

A recent revival in the numbers of barn owls seen in the Durham BAP area might be related to a number of additional factors.  Lack of snow cover in Durham during the winter in recent years may be one. The expansion of rough grassland areas as part of young tree planting projects in the Great North Forest may be another, although some of this resource will be lost as the trees mature on parts of the sites. The barn owl is widespread but sparse in the Durham BAP area, with local concentrations east of Durham City and towards the coast, in the north-west of the area and Gateshead and south of Durham City.


  • Loss of rough grassland habitat.
  • Loss of suitable nest sites due to decline in the number of hedgerow trees, and the re-development of farm buildings.
  • Increased deaths of barn owls from road accidents.
  • Low level poisoning by pesticides suppresses breeding performance of barn owls.
  • Harsh winter weather.