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Last Updated: Tuesday September 26 2006 12:39 GMT

Weird weather threatens barn owls

Barn owls

The weird weather we've had this year has caused terrible problems for one of the countryside's most beautiful creatures - the barn owl.

Experts fear that up to three quarters of the creatures have been wiped out.

Unusually cold temperatures which lasted until May meant that the mice, voles and shrews that owls eat were not scurrying around as normal.

And the recent wet weather has soaked the creatures' feathers, so they've not been able to fly properly.

It's bad news for the creatures, which were already suffering a massive drop in numbers because so many new roads are being built.
Habitats are under threat
Habitats are under threat

The roads are in their flight paths and lots of owls die after being hit by cars.

Babies

In 1932, there were 12,000 pairs of breeding owls, but by the late 1990s, this had gone down to just 4,000.

Now they're fighting climate change too, and it's thought just 1,000 breeding pairs could be left.

The Barn Owl Trust told Newsround that there were no babies at one third of the 70 nesting sites they monitor.

David Ramsden from the charity said: "It is particularly bad news. We and others have been working very hard to increase numbers, but the extreme weather has caused a huge decline."

He said the places where the owls live need to be protected for them to survive and urged people to support conservation projects.



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