We’re in the dark and we need your help. Owls play an important role in our environment. We urgently need your help to understand more about the ecology and population status of owls in the UK.
As apex predators they sit at the top of the food chain and are therefore excellent indicators of the health of the countryside. We need a much better understanding of their population trends, how they use different habitats and how they interact with other species.
Data collected for Bird Atlas 2007-11 has shown a worrying contraction in geographical range and decline in abundance for Short-eared Owl. Although the distribution of Tawny Owl has changed little over the last 40 years, Breeding Bird Survey data suggest that the population is also declining. We now need specially-designed surveys to find out more about their status and how they use different habitats; the last Tawny Owl survey was carried out more than a decade ago.
The urgent work you could help to fund
A project that tackles our knowledge gaps for all five UK owl species is a very ambitious undertaking. We have designed a staged approach with three elements of work;
- Securing better information about the habitat requirements of Tawny Owls and their breeding numbers. We’ll combine this with efforts to unite those individuals and groups studying Tawny Owls through local schemes to provide a strong link-up between regional and national patterns.
- The next stage of the project will focus on the Short-eared Owl, a nomadic species for which information on movements and habitat use is particularly important in the design of sensitive land management approaches.
- John Calladine at BTO Scotland has just begun work which helps us to understand more about the home range, habitat use and year-round movements of Short-eared Owls. The third stage is to extend this knowledge through a wider programme of tracking work, so that we can understand how the habitat requirements of Short-eared Owls change through the year.
How your gift could help
- A gift of £15 could help pay for a structured national volunteer survey of Tawny Owl, so population trends can be assessed.
- A gift of £25 could help secure the collection of long-term monitoring information (such as brood size, clutch size and the success of individual breeding attempts), collected by volunteer ringers and nest recorders.
- A gift of £50 could help us build on John Calladine’s research into Short-eared Owls in Scotland, and potentially extend the work to other study areas.
Our owls may be fading into the dark - we must address the gaps in our knowledge now so that we have the best chance of countering the threats they face. Let’s make sure that those magical encounters with owls don’t become even more rare.