Conservation UK Projects - Barn Owl Project

Conservation on areas surrounding Salisbury Plain

Introduction and rationale:

The loss of suitable habitat is the most significant negative impact on Barn Owl populations in England. During the 20th Century, there was a decline of approximately 70% in the UK Barn Owl population. This decline roughly corresponded with a change in farming activity from pasture and livestock production to broad-acre crop production.

Many raptor species, and particularly Barn Owls, need pastureland to exist. The populations of small mammals such as short-tailed voles and shrews, which form a major part of raptor diets, also need this habitat type. When areas of pastureland or unimproved grasslands disappear, so do the small mammals. Without sufficient prey, raptor populations also decline.

Roosting and nesting sites for Barn Owls are also increasingly in short supply. As it’s name suggests, the Barn Owl preferentially uses barns and other farm buildings such as hay sheds for roosting and nesting. Many of these structures are disappearing, or being modified. The pressures of human development mean that many raptor species either need to adapt to live in close proximity to humans – or disappear. Whilst some raptor species appear reasonably adaptable to development pressures, this is not the case with the Barn Owl.


To assist with conservation efforts for Barn Owls and other raptor species on areas surrounding Salisbury Plain, in partnership with the Barn Owl Conservation Network and other conservation organisations, such as the Imber Conservation Group.


  • Provide staff to assist Major Nigel Lewis of the Imber Conservation Group in his role as the regional Barn Owl Conservation Network representative
  • Maintain existing responsibilities for nest box provision and maintenance
  • Continue field research into ecological aspects of the target species
  • Continue data collection for British Trust for Ornithology and the Barn Owl Monitoring Programme


  • Improvement in the conservation status of Barn Owls and other raptor species on areas surrounding Salisbury Plain
  • Training and development of HCT staff
  • Ongoing improvement in nest box design and location
  • Publication of relevant information


  • Population increase for Barn Owls
  • Nest site provision and maintenance for other target species
  • Extended knowledge of ecology for target species
  • Valuable information and feedback for education and research work at HCT and other areas
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