Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Large number of dead barn owls found in Highlands

Barn owl
Barn owls may have been forced to the coast in hunts for mice

Large numbers of dead barn owls have been recorded by RSPB field workers in the north of Scotland.

The charity said it believed severe winter weather could have led to the birds starving to death.

Conservation worker Stuart Benn said deep snow had made it harder for the owls to catch food like mice and voles.

Finds along the coast of the Moray Firth suggested barn owls had flown from inland territories to hunt for the mammals.

Mr Benn said he found the remains of a barn owl close to the Norbord factory near Inverness Airport. Other deaths have also been reported to RSPB Scotland.

The conservation officer said: "It's not just small birds that have suffered during the cold spell. We believe that a number of larger species have also suffered severely.

"Barn owls, in particular, seem to be doing badly."

He added: "In recent years, due to a series of mild winters, the barn owl population had increased quite markedly in the north with the birds spreading into Sutherland.

"I suspect that progress has been put into sharp reverse by the weather."

Woodcock and wood pigeons have also been affected.

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Lochaber News How wildlife was hit by the big freeze - 14 hrs ago
The Scotsman Harsh winter takes its toll as barn owls starve to death - 16 hrs ago

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