Birds of prey in general are suffering one of their worst breeding years yet. We saw in an earlier post how Long-eared Owls suffered an almost complete collapse of breeding attempts with only five chicks produced from 61 sites nationwide. Reports are that Peregrine falcons too have suffered breeding failure with for example only one nest of a sample 19 producing young in Kerry/Cork (and the chicks were robbed from that one). Kestrels failed to breed at most sites, though the ones which did breed fared well.
Barn Owls nest later in the year so we are only now beginning to see how their season is developing and unfortunately, it is not good. Quite a few sites checked so far have been abandoned, and adults are not breeding at others. Nests with chicks are proving the exception this year.
At least here we have a bit of good news – two healthy looking chicks in one of our nest boxes yesterday while checking our Duhallow sites. They are about three weeks old, and none of the flight feathers are yet visible. They should be at the nest for another month and a half, so will be fledging in late August or early September. Working backwards, if they are 21 days old, they must have hatched around the last day of June, which means the eggs were laid around the last days of May, about 4 weeks later than the average date of around 7th May.
Two Barn Owl chicks at a nest box in Duhallow, 19th July 2013 (Filmed under licence: M.O'Clery).