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Common Barn Owl. Shutterstock
at risk

Ireland’s most common birds of prey are in decline

BirdWatch Ireland has warned that the long-eared owl, the barn owl and the kestrel are in crisis due to lack of food.

BIRDS OF PREY in Ireland are at risk warns BirdWatch Ireland, who says due to the bad weather in spring and other factors some of Ireland’s most common birds are seeing a fall in numbers.

The conservation charity says that birds such as barn owls, hen harriers, buzzards, long-eared owls and kestrels are in a crisis situation because prolonged spells of heavy rainfall in the spring have damaged food stock.

They state that bird numbers have depleted.

If next spring has similar bad weather Irish birds of prey could be in serious danger, they said. Speaking to, Niall Hatch from BirdWatch Ireland said they have been monitoring the rise and fall of birds of prey numbers. He said they have seen a steady decline in two of Ireland’s most common birds – the kestrel and the long-eared owl.

“The kestrel is the most common falcon in Ireland and can often be seen hovering in the air on the side of motorways. They mainly eat mice and young rats, but their numbers have been declining over the last few years,” he said.

One of the reasons could be the rise in the use of rat poision, which could be killing of their food. Changes in farming practices could also be having an affect on the numbers as it can impact on their nesting habits.

We have been monitoring these species in a number of ways including using nest cameras, and we have observed that some are weeks behind in the nesting period.

Another bird of prey that is seeing a decrease in their numbers is the long-eared owl. “This is the most common owl found in Ireland, but it too is seeing a depletion in numbers for similar reasons,” he said. He added that the changes that are observed in Ireland’s birds of prey can tell us a lot about the environment in general. The barn owl was another bird he said was in decline. He said:

The changes that happen to them are reflective of the wider environment as they are at the top of the food chain. It could be telling us that there is an issue with the species they are feeding on, which is having a knock on effect.

He added that BirdWatch Ireland is still seeing a lot of persecution of birds of prey, although he said this incidents seem to be falling. He said that buzzards were particularly being targeted in the past, but he was happy to see that their numbers were on the rise again.

Here are some of the birds that can be found in Ireland:

Ireland’s most common birds of prey are in decline
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  • Birds of Prey

    A pair of barn-owls. (Photo: Shutterstock)
  • Birds of Prey

    One month old Hen Harrier chick. (Owen Humphreys/Press Association Images)
  • Birds of Prey

    Long-eared owl. (Photo credit:Shutterstock)
  • Birds of Prey

    Long-eared owl. (Photo credit:Shutterstock)
  • Birds of Prey

    Kestrel. (Photo credit:Shutterstock)

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