The project was founded by our speaker, Steve Piotrowski, in 2005 as part of the response to the national decline in barn owl numbers (there were 12,000 pairs in 1932 but only 3,750 in 1982). He explained that the decrease was a result of a lack of feeding and nesting opportunities brought about by loss of habitat. The project has installed more than two thousand nest boxes, the majority of which are made by SOLD, a Lowestoft-based charity. These nest boxes have enabled the barn owl to recover and there has been a ten-fold rise in population since the late 1980s.
Steve stated that the barn owl is one of the most dedicated parents in the bird world. The male is much smaller than the female and is excluded from the nest once the eggs hatch, although he continues to feed his young. Barn owls are silent hunters, relying on their incredibly sensitive hearing to locate their prey. Their main target is the short-tailed vole, which, fortunately for the owl, is widespread in the UK and is very productive, breeding like mice. A surprising fact Steve revealed is that there is no waterproofing on the owl’s plumage, which is why drowning is the second biggest killer, after road accidents, of barn owls.