Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been doing its bit for barn owls, one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic species - but also one of the most endangered.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough, Councillor Audrey Wales MBE, said: “There are thought to be less than 30 to 40 breeding pairs left in Northern Ireland with the main reason for the barn owl’s decline being the loss of suitable feeding and nesting sites.
“In order to enhance our parks and open spaces for barn owls our staff have specially chosen three sites in the Borough as potential barn owl habitat and have installed three custom built barn owl nest boxes.
“The boxes have been installed at Eden Allotment Gardens, Carrickfergus, Diamond Jubilee Wood, Whitehead and Ecos Nature Park, Ballymena,” Councillor Wales said.
Local schools Eden Primary, Kilcoan Primary and Ballykeel Primary helped out with the project, with pupils learning all about barns owls and helping to build the nest boxes.
These three sites all offer rough grassland near the edges of watercourses, with good rodent populations and so provide ideal hunting habitats.
Bird expert, Aidan Crean, explained: “The habitats in Mid and East Antrim offer great feeding opportunities for barn owls but there was a lack of suitable nest sites in the area. Hopefully barn owls will find and use these new nest boxes. If even one box is used, we can monitor it and this will make a significant contribution to the knowledge of these mysterious birds.
“So keep a look out and if you are lucky enough to see one of these wonderful birds, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council would be delighted to hear from you.
“However, please do not disturb the barn owl in any way. They are protected under the Wildlife Order and it is an offence to disturb the birds or their nests,” Aidan added.