The charity making life better by water

Barn owl

Barn owls are one of Britain's most reclusive, yet treasured birds. The best time to spot a barn owl is at dusk, when you may catch sight of one hunting for prey along our riverbanks and canal towpaths.

Barn own

Barn owl numbers have fallen dramatically in the last 30 years, but appear to have stabilised recently. Barn owls are faced with a number of threats including the cutting down of trees, the destruction of natural grasslands and barn conversions, so they need all the help they can get.

We work with organisations such as the Wildlife Conservation Partnership to help this threatened and protected bird, by installing nesting boxes and managing habitats. In times of little food, parent barn owls will only feed the biggest chick and let the smaller ones die. Because of this, 75% of chicks die within the first year of life.

Barn owl survival depends on their ability to secure food, so appropriate management of the habitat close to nesting boxes is important. Owls love voles, so we make changes to our vegetation management to reduce the number of cuts to grassland areas in order to provide a better habitat for the voles, which in turn aids the owl population. Generally the ground vegetation along river and canal corridors provides a perfect habitat for barn owls, acting as prime feeding areas.

Barn owl facts

Appearance: Instantly recognisable, the barn owl has a white heart-shaped face, underparts and legs. Its back, wings and head are a golden brown with black and grey mottling.

Size: 30-40cm, with an 85-95cm wingspan

Weight: 290- 460g

Lifespan: Up to 10 years, rarely more than 2.

Diet: Rodents, small mammals, frogs, birds and insects

Family: Tytonidae

Family nature guide 2019

Download your free nature guide

Identify footprints and read fascinating facts about the creatures who make their homes along our canals and rivers

Last Edited: 12 November 2020

photo of a location on the canals
newsletter logo

Stay connected

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and be the first to hear about campaigns, upcoming events and fundraising inspiration