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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 23 October, 2001, 05:23 GMT 06:23 UK
Trust hopes for owling success
barn owl chicks
Barn owl numbers have dropped because of pesticides
Landowners in Gloucestershire are being encouraged to learn how to attract barn owls onto their property.

The move is part of scheme by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to try to increase the number of birds in the county.

While barn owl numbers have stopped declining, the Trust says there are no signs of them increasing.

Many have lost homes in derelict buildings or trees because of building work.

Tea chests
Tea chests are no longer made
Other traditional nest sites used by the owls, such as barns and other old farm buildings, are being replaced by modern buildings or houses which are not suited to barn owl habitation.

Barn owl numbers in Britain have also declined due to the use of pesticides, such as DDT, which are consumed by small mammals that are then eaten by the owls.

Eventually, chemicals build up in the owls and weaken their eggshells.

But the Trust is hoping to show people how to build nests to provide the birds with safe breeding sites.

Chest donations

However, the Trust had had some problems with what to use to provide shelters to help the owls breed.

Recently, it made an appeal for donations of tea chests, which make ideal nesting boxes because they are sturdy and largely damp-proof.

But efforts to get them from packaging firms failed.

The Trust was told the chests are no longer made and so asked people to check their attics, sheds and basements for old tea chests, which can be turned into breeding boxes.

That appeal has met with some positive results and the modified boxes will be given to farmers and landowners to ensure there are plenty of nest sites for barn owls to use.

Courses will be held in November explaining how the boxes tie in with the county's biodiversity action plan.

Barn owls are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, under which it is an offence to intentionally disturb them while nesting.

See also:

03 Oct 01 | England
12 Apr 01 | Science/Nature
06 Sep 00 | Festival of science
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