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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Time for tea chests
barn owl chicks
Tea chests can be turned into breeding boxes
An English wildlife trust is appealing for donations of tea chests to house barn owls after its efforts to get them from packaging firms failed.

Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust was told the chests were no longer made.

It is now asking people to check their attics, sheds and basements for old tea chests, which can be turned into breeding boxes

barn owl
Barn owls' traditional homes are disappearing
Natalie Beecham, from Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, said: "We were told by local packaging firms that tea chests were no longer used for removals and transportation - in fact, they're quite rare."

The barn owl population in Gloucestershire is stable but the trust says its future is uncertain.

Traditional nest sites used by the birds - barns and other old farm buildings - are being replaced by modern buildings that are unsuitable for barn owl habitation.

Tea chests make ideal nesting boxes because they are sturdy and largely damp-proof.

Next month, the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust will be running a course on how to transform them into homes for pairs of breeding barn owls.

An entrance hole is cut and a tray fitted in front of the entrance to provide an exercise area for young owls.

Good response

The modified chests will be given to farmers and landowners to ensure there are plenty of nest sites for barn owls to use.

They can be sited in old or modern buildings away from busy roads where the owl can gain permanent access to the box.

Natalie Beecham said the trust had had a good response to its appeal and should have enough to run the course.

"One lady has come forward who has four or five chests in her loft she's willing to donate. A few more like that and we'll have plenty."

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 which weaken their eggshells.

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:

12 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Owls have 'surround sound'
06 Sep 00 | Festival of science
Barn owls are back
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