Barn Owl Populations and Monitoring  
Barn Owls and the Law

Barn Owls and their nest sites are protected by law. The Barn Owl is specially protected under Schedules 1 and 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is illegal to kill, injure or take a wild Barn Owl or to take or destroy its eggs. It is also illegal to check nest sites or even to disturb a Barn Owl while it is at or near a breeding site - unless you hold a special licence. (Usually March to October is considered the breeding season, but they might breed at almost any time of year!)

Any study or disturbance of Barn Owl nesting sites requires a “Schedule 1 Licence” which can only be obtained through official government bodies or agencies - usually Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage or Northern Ireland Environment Agency or British Trust for Ornithology. The Schedule 1 scheme monitors where the observers are operating, and tries to ensure that no site is visited by more than one group of observers. Leg-ringing of birds is also controlled by legislation, and so bird ringers have to be officially qualified for this.

The welfare of the wild bird is paramount. Other legislation for protecting animals, such as the 1960 “Abandonment of Animals Act” also apply. Captive-bred Barn Owls cannot be released into the wild without the appropriate licence from DEFRA. This type of operation is difficult to carry out successfully without scientific study of the release sites and local habitat, so the government stopped issuing licences some years ago.

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