Barn Owl – 1894

Strix flammea (Tyto alba) – TYLLUAN WEN – A resident far from common.

In driving about the county we have very seldom seen any of these Owls beating the fields for mice in the dusk of a summer’s eve. We had one or two inhabiting some old ivy-covered ash trees in the covers at Stone Hall, and occasionally saw one flushed when we were shooting through woods in the north of the county, but we believe in Pembrokeshire the majority of the Barn Owls find their abodes in nooks and crannies in cliffs, both inland and on the coast. We were informed that Barn Owls are numerous on Skomer Island, there inhabiting such places as we have described. The Rev. C. M. Phelps knew of a colony of Barn Owls in the Coygan, a huge mass of lime- stone rock, close to Laugharne Marsh. The old castles, such as Carew, Pembroke, &c, also afford, in their ivy-clad ruins, suitable nesting places.

Although the Barn Owl is generally a solitary recluse, we have, in our experience, met with two instances of its living in society in such numbers that the association might fairly be termed an “Owlery.” One of these had its location in some old cottages, just below a beautiful Henry VII. church tower. The roofs of the cottages all communicated, and were tenanted by such a number of Barn Owls that at last the cottagers rose up against them, being annoyed by the smell and the noises proceeding from the birds, and we were informed that between forty and fifty were either driven out or destroyed.

The other instance of an “Owlery” occurred in the roof of a country house, where the venerable birds might not have been undisturbed had they kept themselves from the young Pheasants, whose coops were at no distance from the house. But one season when every one of the young Pheasants had been carried off war was proclaimed, and the roof entered, and about a dozen adult Owls were found and killed, besides Owlets in various stages of growth. The floor was discovered to be littered over with the remains of the Pheasants. Tell it not in Gath!

Mr. Dix writes that in his district the Barn Owl was “not common; I have only seen two specimens during the past year.”

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about the Barn Owl in Pembrokeshire