Suffolk: Disappointment as tawny owl nests found empty

Tawny owl at Stonham Barns

Tawny owl at Stonham Barns - Credit: Archant

Yet another victim of the exceptionally cold winter has emerged in the bird world.

Of 44 nesting boxes checked by the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary in recent weeks, not one contained a live tawny owl chick.

The disappointing find has led experts to suspect that depleted numbers of small prey may be to blame.

This time last year, bird ringers counted 18 newborn tawny owls across the 44 boxes monitored by the sanctuary, based at Stonham Aspal.

Despite being Britain’s most numerous mainland breeding owl, the tawny, like many species across the country, appears to have suffered the effects of a cruel winter and unseasonably cold spring.

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Sanctuary owner, Andy Hulme said: “No tawny owls seem to have successfully nested. One chick was found dead and the rest of the boxes were empty.

“It is probably because of the weather but it could have a catastrophic effect.”

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Nest boxes are installed as a safe place for barn, tawny and little owls to protect their young. Although the artificial nests are well built and able to withstand poor weather, the decline in numbers is more likely due to lack of food.

The RSPB said tawny owls typically nest in woodland, feeding on voles and shrews, and that the exceptionally bad winter may well have depleted numbers of these mammals.

However, the wildlife charity said there had otherwise been no unusual reports of lots of failing nests, with chicks born in London’s Richmond Park and Hyde Park.

A spokesman for Suffolk Wildlife Trust said a succession of cold winters could eventually take its toll on numbers.

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