Community Works Together to Bring Red-Listed Barn Owl Back From the Brink in Ireland

The barn owl, known for its screeching noise that many think inspired the “banshee” myth in Ireland, is on the decline in Europe. Things are even worse in Ireland, where the birds are red-listed. A new community effort is making sure these animals don’t vanish from the Emerald Isle.

The Cork County Council has teamed up with BirdWatch Ireland to provide nesting boxes for the owls to allow for better chances of breeding. They typically nest on buildings, including ruined castles, barns, and sheds. However, they will use nesting boxes if provided. The breeding population has been declining, partially due to issues like being killed by rodenticides in their prey.


As part of this collaborative effort to help save these birds, nesting boxes have now been placed in suitable spots in County Cork and other areas of the country. Volunteers put them together and get them installed.

This is one facet of a larger effort to try to bring these animals back to appropriate numbers.

Cork County Mayor Cllr Mary Linehan Foley is proud of the work that’s being done, saying, “Happily, our barn owl populations in the County have been making a comeback, but some of their old nesting sites are no longer suitable and some pose a danger to survival of young birds. This project aims to provide safe nest boxes… and Cork County Council is delighted to be able to support this positive step in promoting and supporting our wildlife and biodiversity.”

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Cork County Council Chief Executive Tim Lucey says BirdWatch Ireland will be keeping a close eye on the nesting boxes and what results they yield.

Lucey says, “The success of the barn owl boxes will also be closely monitored by researchers with help from volunteers from BirdWatch Ireland. These simple and relatively inexpensive measures, supported by Cork County Council, will help improve the odds for these remarkable birds in County Cork.”


It’s not just Cork that’s seeing an increase. County Down in Northern Ireland recently celebrated four chicks hatching from a breeding pair on Mount Stewart. Lead ranger Toby Edwards said this is out of the ordinary.

He explains, “It’s thought that there are less than 30 pairs of barn owls in Northern Ireland, with the species having been in decline here for some time.”

BirdWatch Ireland says the owls are found mostly in central and southern Ireland, though they are scarce. They no longer breed in large portions of northern, western, and eastern Ireland. Their breeding success is also very dependent upon suitable prey.

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