Barn Owls are protected by law, that may not come as a surprise but it may be a surprise to learn that it is now unlawful to release captive bred barn owls into the wild. The main reason for this is that a captive bred barn owl released into the wild will survive for about two weeks and then die – they are not instinctive hunters and will simply starve to death. There is also an argument that if the habitat is suitable then barn owls will thrive which means breed & release schemes are not necessary. It was once possible to obtain a licence from DEFRA for breed & release but these are no longer being issued.

If you suspect an offence has been commited you should contact the police without delay.

The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 contains details of the legislation regarding the protection of wild barn owls and should be refered to in all cases but some of the main points are shown below.

An offence is committed by any person who intentionally:

  • kills, injures or takes any wild bird
  • takes, damages or destroys the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built
  • takes or destroys an egg of any wild bird

An offence is committed by any person who has in his possesion or control

  • any live or dead wild bird or any part of, or anything derived from a wild bird
  • an egg or any part of an egg of a wild bird

An offence is committed by any person who intentionally or recklessly

  • disturbs any wild bird included in Schedule1 while it is building a nest or is in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young
  • or disturbs dependent young of such a bird.

The barn owl is listed in Schedule1 and penalties are greater where a Schedule1 bird is involved in any of the offences mentioned. Attempts to commit offences, exceptions, captive birds, warrants and powers of stop and search are also covered – refer to the Act for details.

The Countryside and Rights of Way act 2000 makes a number of significant changes to Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, again the Act should be refered to but some of the main points are that the penalties, powers of arrest and search warrant provisions have been increased.

Commiting an offence in relation to Barn Owls can result in fines up £5000 or imprisonment