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4 May 2012

Unusual Barn Owl nest in Duhallow

The Beech tree, struck by lightning around 2005. The entire upper half is hollow, creating a large nest chamber for the Barn Owls (Photo: M.O'Clery).

There was an exciting development in the Duhallow Raptor Survey when a visitor to our website rang to tell us of Barn Owls in their garden, nesting in a mature Beech tree which had been struck by lightning several years ago. The Barn Owls, it seems, took up residence about four or five years ago, and have been present since. The owners reported seeing two young there last summer. A careful period of observation on Wednesday evening saw a male and female present, and their behavior and vocalisations would seem to indicate that the female is most likely either on eggs, or about to lay her eggs.

The main entrance to the nest, though the owls can also climb up through the trunk and exit at the side and top (Photo: M.O'Clery).

Of all Barn Owl nests discovered so far in Ireland, only about 5% are in trees, compared with up to 30% in parts of England. This is most likely due to the combination of our much wetter climate, but also due to a relative lack of mature trees and woodland in Ireland. Barn Owls need a large, dry cavity in which to nest, and in Ireland this is most often provided by the walls and chimneys of derelict buildings. To have a tree nest in the Duhallow area is remarkable but to have one in your garden is more remarkable still! There is for example, only one known tree nest in Kerry (not in a garden), and this is the first such example currently known in Co. Cork. We'll let you know how the owls get on...