The distribution of Barn Owl nest-sites in relation to altitude in southwest England

Published on 02 September 2013 in Main articles

The relationship between the distribution of Barn Owl Tyto alba nest-sites and altitude was analysed in Devon and Cornwall using 30+ years of nest record data. The altitudinal distribution of nest-sites in the region is lower than would be expected by chance.

Barn Owl, pic by Chris Batey

Barn Owl, pic by Chris Batey

In Britain, Barn Owls are often described as lowland birds with an upper altitudinal limit to their breeding distribution; this understanding influences both conservation recommendations and survey methodologies. Previous authors have stated either that an upper limit to distribution in the UK occurs at 250-300 m above sea level or that 150 m is close to the upper limit of habitat suitability, rising to 200 m in the southwest.

Barn Owls may breed at slightly higher altitudes in southwest England than elsewhere in the UK owing to the relatively mild climate; factors such as increased snow cover may be more restrictive elsewhere (for example, through the effect of increased winter mortality of adults). This short paper aims to show the altitudinal distribution of Barn Owls in Devon and Cornwall, and to discover whether Barn Owl nest-sites are distributed randomly across the available landscape in the region, in terms of altitude.

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