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Thursday, 14 July 2016

How are Barn Owls doing in Kerry this summer?

There is a massive effort underway this summer by BirdWatch Ireland to monitor as many Barn Owl sites as possible and Co. Kerry, being one of the strongholds of the species in Ireland, is getting its fair share of the effort.

Male Barn Owl outside his nest box near Farranfore, Co. Kerry. There were two chicks ringed at this site in July (M.O'Clery, under licence from NPWS).

So far, observations of this years Barn Owls sites has shown that:

• Average egg-laying dates are one to three weeks later than average (probably due to a very chilly April).

• Brood sizes are low, with generally only one or two chicks per nest.

• Occupancy of sites is generally good, with most 'traditional' sites still active.

• At least six new sites have been discovered so far, meaning that the number of known Barn Owl sites in Kerry - around 50 - is now greater than ever.

• Male chicks are outnumbering females this summer by a ratio of about three to one (normally the sex of chicks is 50:50 male/female).

One of the few nests in Kerry this summer with three chicks, this one down a chimney shaft of an abandoned mansion, south Kerry, July 2016 (M.O'Clery, under licence from NPWS).

Barn Owl nest site, July 2016 (M.O'Clery, under licence from NPWS).

There is more work yet to be done, but the season seems to be generally a good one. No bumper crop of youngsters this summer after the bonanza of last years record nesting season, but the generally high level of occupancy of sites does bode well. Despite the lateness of the season, if the weather in August and September is reasonable, there is every chance that even the late fledging chicks will be in good shape to disperse away from the nest sites and survive the winter ahead.

One of the two chicks ringed at a nest box site on the Dingle Peninsula, July 2016 (M.O'Clery, under licence from NPWS).

More on this years breeding season on the Irish Raptor Blog HERE