Page last updated at 10:02 GMT, Tuesday, 9 June 2009 11:02 UK

Study collects owls' life history

Tawny Owl
Adult tawny owls are captured and their vital statistics recorded

Conservationists have collected the life history of all the tawny owls in a Northumberland forest during what they have called a "unique" 30-year study.

Workers have been counting the eggs at 230 nesting boxes in Kielder Forest, recording the vital statistics of adult owls, and putting rings on all chicks.

The project was started by the Forestry Commission in 1979.

Its findings have helped experts examine how climate change has affected the tawny owl population.

Alex Millon, one of those monitoring the boxes, said: "This is a unique study area. We are sitting on 30 years worth of data, which is amazing.

"It allows us to look in very fine detail at the changing demography of this predator according to the changes which are happening right now to the prey dynamics.

"And there are some changes, that's for sure, changes in the breeding success across the years, and the viability of breeding success between the years.

"To what extent it affects the population size, for instance, and the total number of tawny owl pairs in this forest, we don't yet know."

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