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Ringing a Barn Owl at May Farm. Photo: Steve Mumford

2019 has been a successful year for Barn Owls on the Fair to Nature accredited May Farm, near Ely, Cambridgeshire. May Farm is the site of Littleport Mushrooms, which is part of the G’s Group and grows mushrooms for major supermarkets. The farm joined the Fair to Nature scheme in 2017 and their biodiversity manager, Steve Mumford, has created a diverse range of wildlife habitats around the mushroom tunnels, including a wetland scrape and turtle dove habitat.

Three Barn Owl pairs have nested on the farm this year. One pair were unsuccessful in raising a brood, but Steve thinks they may be young birds. Of the other two pairs, one has raised one chick and the other has raised three chicks.

All the chicks have been leg-ringed under the BTO Schedule 1 license by Steve and Professor Tony Martin.

Barn Owls lay clutches of 4 to 7 white eggs which are laid at two-day intervals, the female begins incubating the eggs after the first egg is laid. Only the female carries out the incubation which takes 32 to 34 days. At this time, she is fed by the male. After hatching the chicks are fed by both parents and Barn Owls can often be seen hunting in the day in suitable weather.

The chicks grow rapidly on a diet of Short-Tailed Field Voles, Bank Voles and Wood Mouse which thrive in abundance in the wildlife habitats at May Farm. After around 60 days in the nest box the young owls will start to fly. They will be cared for by the parents until they become independent at around 10 weeks old.

We know, from research that Barn Owl chicks disperse up to 12-15km after they gain independence. Hopefully the May Farm birds will disperse and populate other G’s farms in the area and begin their own families in the years to come!

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A Barn Owl family at May Farm. Photo: Steve Mumford

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