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24 April 2012

Early Barn Owl chicks

John Lusby reports that a Barn Owl nest site in South Tipperary, just to the north of Duhallow, has a brood of chicks which hatched 2-3 days ago (around 22nd April). The eggs would therefore have been laid around 23rd March, one of the earliest nesting of Barn Owls recorded in Ireland. Although the mildness of the winter just gone may be an important factor, Tipperary generally has some of the earliest nesting Barn Owls in Ireland. This is at least partly due to the early season abundance of the Greater White-toothed Shrew, a recently introduced small mammal (upon which the Barn Owls readily feed) which is increasing its range by several kilometres each year. It is currently widespread in most of Tipperary and part of east Limerick (with a small outpost in Black Rock, Co. Cork). It is thought the shrew hasn't yet reached the Duhallow area, but we will all be on high alert, not just for early-breeding Barn Owls this year, but also for signs that the shrew has spread into the area.

More on that soon...

A 2-3 day old Barn Owl chick would be only about 4cm long, featherless and blind, though they grow quickly. This Barn Owl chick (photographed in Kerry) is about 20 days old, just old enough to regulate it's own body temperature (Photo: M.O'Clery).