It has been many years since I have seen a Barn Owl. Having checked out, 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 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

This Barn Owl helps control the rat population. Check for ways to help owls.

This Barn Owl helps control the rat population. Check for ways to help owls.

a dead one so the Project can learn more from the cause of death. Contact the Barn Owl Project at or phone 01-2819878.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for this post… informing and educating people about this is the only way, so good luck with that.


    • Posted by Trevor Sargent on December 16, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Thank you for reading and commenting on the blog about effects of rat poison on wildlife. I agree we need to get the word out there.


  2. Here in France (SW) we have little owls, long eared owls and barn owls around us – though not sure how the general population is doing – but I do appreciate your comments on how to keep rats at bay round the bird table. I think the local cat population seem to help as I am unaware of rats even though we are in the middle of the country with many outbuildings. This is a worrying blog though.


    • Posted by Trevor Sargent on December 16, 2013 at 11:44 am

      Thank you for the news from France (SW). Sounds wonderful to have various species of owls in your locality. A good sign of a healthy biodiversity. Between owls and cats, the rat population is kept in check, it seems. Sounds like a wonderful environment for beekeeping too. I’ll be blogging about my beekeeping activities too when the weather warms up a bit in spring.
      Kind regards,


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