Record year for barn owls at Cossington Meadows nature reserve

Record year for barn owls at Cossington Meadows nature reserve

Danny Green/2020VISION

Fourteen barn owl chicks have been recorded at Cossington Meadows Nature Reserve, beating the previous record of 12 in 2019!

We first noticed barn owls were breeding at Cossington Meadows and on an adjoining property in the early 2000s. Barn owl boxes were put into suitable trees to encourage them to breed, however there was no evidence of breeding until 2015, when a single chick was laid. 

In 2019, we saw a new record of twelve chicks fledge, which was fantastic news. However, breeding success in 2020 was a disappointment and other reports from around the country showed similar setbacks. The reasons for this are unclear, the habitat at Cossington Meadows did not see any major changes, the rough grassland still provided cover for small mammals, which barn owls feed on. However it is possible that species like voles, mice and shrews had a poor breeding year. This was backed up with three eggs being laid in one box but later being abandoned by the parents, most likely because they knew that upon hatching, the chicks could starve.

However, in May 2021, it was evident that we were going to see a vast improvement. Four eggs were laid in one box and three in another. This did not mean that they would hatch and eventually fledge, but on a return visit a month later the eggs had hatched and were healthy looking chicks. These chicks grew well and fledged leaving the adults to lay another clutch.

Barn owl chicks cossington

Things were going very well indeed and it looked like, barring any crash in prey availability, we could beat the previous record set in 2019. In October, a check on the boxes revealed another seven chicks and a final visit in late November revealed an empty box! They had all flown the nest. This brings our total to 14 chicks fledged in 2021, a new record for the reserve!

Chris Hill, Conservation Officer, who manages Cossington Meadows said "We are delighted by the news, it's incredible and great to see the boxes are a big success!"

We also recorded 16 chicks from our barn owl boxes at Rutland Water Nature Reserve this year, bringing our total across the reserves for 2021 to 30 chicks!