Barn Owl – 1994

Tyto alba – TYLLUAN WEN – Breeding resident

Map produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre
Breeding confirmed31
Breeding probable11
Breeding possible68
No of tetrads occupied 110 (of 478)
Percentage of tetrads23%

“A resident far from common” wrote Mathew (1894), an assessment with which Lockley et al. (1949) agreed. Lloyd entered “uncommon in Pembrokeshire” in his diary for 1925, and Saunders (1976) remarked that the Barn Owl seems never to have been particularly common in Pembrokeshire.

Nonetheless, Blaker (1934), who conducted a survey of England and Wales on behalf of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, estimated that there were 220 pairs in Pembrokeshire (a total derived from Blaker’s map by C. Shawyer, pers. comm.). The Breeding Birds Survey of 1984-1988 found more Barn Owls than was expected at the outset, probably over 100 pairs. A large proportion of the sites were brought to light by talking to farmers and it is possible that others might be revealed could more landowners be canvassed.

Both Mathew and Lockley et al. noted nesting in cliff crevices on the mainland and islands of Skomer, Caldey and St Margaret’s. They have since been only occasional visitors to the islands of Skomer, Skokholm and Ramsey but have nested in the cliffs at Pen Beni and Dinas Fawr.

Mathew noted two instances of communal roosting, or what he termed an “owlery”. One in the roof of a country house contained about a dozen adults, besides owlets in various stages of growth. The other, in the connected roof space of a row of cottages, contained between 40 and 50 Barn Owls. The only modern equivalent record concerns 12 seen emerging from the ruins of Butterhill Mansion in 1987.

Since it is only occasionally seen hunting in the twilight in Pembrokeshire, and more often at night passing through the headlight beams of cars, this species is easily overlooked, although it will hunt in broad daylight following snowfalls.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

BLAKER, G.B. 1934. The Barn owl in England and Wales. Bird Notes and News 15: 169-172, 207-211.

More about the Barn Owl in Pembrokeshire