Nidderdale gamekeepers erected a nest box to aid the successful fledging of three barn owls, after two fell to their death last year...

Gamekeepers in Nidderdale are celebrating the successful fledging of three barn owls after the sad loss of two chicks last year. In 2020, in the same barn, three owlets hatched but two of the three fell to their death from a ledge several metres up. 

To improve the beautiful and protected birds’ chances this year, gamekeepers put up a special nesting box, one of 20 installed in the region; all three of this year’s chicks, monitored from a safe distance, are now growing well. 

Moorland gamekeepers have erected 20 Barn Owl boxes since 2016, with breeding first recorded in 2018. The boxes are installed in traditional stone field barns and modern steel framed farm buildings where there is suitable surrounding habitat for the owls to hunt, both on moorland estates and land owned by local farmers. 

Tracy Johnson of the Nidderdale Moorland Group said: “A well designed and positioned nest box is a safer place for Barn Owls to rear their young. This year, 29 chicks have fledged successfully in the eight boxes that we have checked. One brood had already fledged and left the box. 
“This gives us an average brood size of 3.6 chicks in Nidderdale, a really encouraging result. Working with the British Trust for Ornithology we have ringed 23 Barn Owl chicks to provide data on their survival rates and territory. This year has been a good breeding year after last year which is thought to be the worst year on record for barn owl breeding. 
“The erection of nest boxes is thought to be a factor in their nesting success alongside habitat management. We now regularly see Barn Owls hunting for shrews, voles, mice and small birds on the moorland edges, although they are known usually as a low-ground bird.”