Through the binoculars: Barn owls in Bromley

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The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) | 2021 - 2023 | Bromley

Barn owls in Bromley

Back in late 2017 we noticed that an awful mess had appeared in a former cow shed that idverde used for storage,” says Steven Lofting, Senior Conservation Ranger (Biodiversity), a former RSPB biodiversity advisor to idverde. “Imagine the thrill when the mess turned out to be barn owl pellets – the culprit was later spotted on a camera trap.” 

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The iconic barn owl has been known to be present in the Bromley area, but the Barn Owl Trust had no formal records of its sighting. The confirmation took some detective work. After discovering owl pellets which suggested a barn owl was the culprit, the idverde team set camera traps up to try and snap the bird in question.  

“It is not only fantastic that we have this species back in Bromley but also that we are able to utilise technology like camera traps to help us prove the barn owl was here.” The owl, which appears to be male based upon the lightcoloured chest, was possibly passing through the area but, unlike tawny owls, barn owls are not strictly territorial. If the habitat was suitable and food plentiful it is very possible that a potential mate may be found and the owls would stay. 

Barn owl found in idverde storage shed

So in 2018 Bromley Countryside Volunteers under the guidance of RSPB and idverde staff built and put in place a nest box. In the first two years only a few pellets were found. Then, in 2021, a pair of barn owls were discovered to be using the next box and had three young owls too.  

“The young were later ringed under licence,” says Steven. “The female owl already had a ring which was traced back a small village near Glastonbury where she was ringed as a chick. It’s unusual for a barn owl to travel so far.” 

Our owl family is thought to be among the first breeding barn owls in Bromley in decades. A really exciting discovery and a great community project. 

Barn Owl chicks in the nest box (taken under license) - B. Francis
In the arms of a licenced ringer – Photo Derek Miah