The majestic Barn Owl is a favourite of many people. A specialist of rough grassland and open habitats these ghostly enigmas are most active at dawn and dusk.

Highly adapted predators these they are capable of silent flight and have a facial disk that amplifies their hearing. These adaptations make them efficient hunters of their favourite prey items; rodents (mostly mice and voles).

Many of these small mammals have good years and bad years and the success of breeding Barn Owls reflects this with some years being much better than others.

The owls have adapted to cope with these annual changes in prey abundance by incubating their 4 to 6 eggs after the first one is laid. This results in the chicks varying dramatically in age and size. In a good vole year all will fledge but in a bad year only the oldest few will survive.

If the young do survive to fledge they can expect to live for around four years but could live as long as 15.

Barn Owls can be found across the farmland of Wiltshire with the populations on Salisbury Plain and the Braydon Forest having been studied of some time.

There are around 9,000 pairs on Barn Owls breeding in the UK. The vast majority of these use manmade studies such as buildings or nest boxes.

Here's one which uses a nest box at one of our nature reserves:

See more video clips from our Barn Own nest cam

Historically, the population declined throughout the 20th Century. Numbers have recovered now due to the increased provision of nest boxes and changes in the use of chemicals such as rodenticides which can build up in a owls system and poison it.

Despite their recent success Barn Owls still face a variety of threats. They are easily disturbed when breeding and can still suffer the effects of poisoning from rodenticides. In addition many owls are sadly killed each year in traffic collisions as they hunt along the verges of busy roads.

A breeding pair of Barn Owls shows you that the land is healthy. If you know of a pair it is important to record them to help us safeguard these wonderful birds.

Submit your sighting of a Barn Owl