It has been many years since I have seen a Barn Owl. Having checked out www.thinkwildlife.org, I now begin to understand why. The Barn Owl hunts for rats and mice. Humans often poison these rodents. Therefore this poison concentrates in the bodies of predators. Ironically, the rat poison ends up killing the natural predators of rats, leading to even greater rodent populations.
For us in Tacumshin, Co. Wexford, having three cats keeps rats at bay. Ensuring bird tables are out of rat range is important too. Rats can shimmy up thin rough poles so bear that in mind. Keep any food for livestock, poultry, pets or humans in metal or thick plastic rat proof containers. Don’t encourage rats. They are clever opportunists and will travel up to 2 km a night if they think food might be available. As a result of the good summer weather, rodents had a very successful summer breeding season.
If poison is the only option remaining, check out the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use in Ireland at www.thinkwildlife.org which Éanna Ní Lamhna of RTÉ and the Minister for Agriculture launched at the National Ploughing Championships last September. This launch heard that over 80% of Barn Owl carcasses tested contained significant amounts of rat poison. Other predators similarly affected are long-eared owls. kites, buzzards, pine martens, stoats and foxes. If we had more of these predators, the rats population would be better controlled naturally.
John Lusby of Birdwatch Ireland heads up the Barn Owl Project. He has been measuring the decline in Barn Owl numbers. From the mid-90’s when there were about 130 breeding pairs in Ireland, we have less than half that number now. To save this beautiful and very useful bird of prey from extinction in Ireland, requires information, education and action. John wants to hear from any person who comes across Barn Owls, especially
a dead one so the Project can learn more from the cause of death. Contact the Barn Owl Project at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01-2819878.