Ireland's Biodiversity Awareness Campaign

Species of the Month

Below is a list of our previous 'Species of the Month'

Common Yew Tree
Witches' Butter
Hen Harrier
Eurasian Otter
Harbour Porpoise
Butterfiles of Ireland
Barn Owl

Barn Owl – Tyto alba , Scréachóg reilige

Irelands Owls

Ireland has three resident owl species  - the Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, and the Barn Owl.

Barn Owl – Tyto alba , Scréachóg reilige

(Photo by John Carey)

The Barn Owl is one of Ireland’s most threatened species of owl and is ‘Red-listed’ in the ‘Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland’(hyperlink for more information). The Barn Owl is found on farmland and in low-lying areas. It nests mainly in hollowed-out trees, derelict buildings, barns but will also nest in specially constructed nest boxes.

The Barn Owl has beautiful honey and white plumage. It has a large round head  and has a heart–shaped face and long legs. Barn Owls can stay with the same partner for life, and the female can lay between 4-7 eggs in late April to late May.

This Owl can see in almost complete darkness; coupled with their excellent hearing, this allows them to track down their prey during the night.  These nocturnal creatures hunt small mammals such as rats, mice, birds and frogs but will also eat insects.
The Barn Owl is threatened in Ireland for a number of reasons including:
· Loss of nesting sites and habitats;
· Loss of prey species though increased use of pesticides; and
· Poisoning from pesticides.

Check out Birdwatch Ireland special Barn Owl conservation section

Long-eared Owl – Asio otus, Ceann cait

(Photo - John Carey )

The Long Eared Owl is the most common owl found in Ireland. It is a nocturnal bird, which means that is it most active at night, doing all its hunting after dark. Like the Barn Owl, the Long-eared Owl hunts small mammals along farmland, grassland and wooded areas.
It is found in woodlands near open grasslands across the country. Unlike the Barn Owl, the Long-eared Owl does not build its own nest but will reuse old large nests made by crows or magpies, and has even been known to nest in old squirrels’ dreys. Long-eared Owls typically lay 3-5 white eggs from late March on to the end of the summer.

The Long-eared Owl gets its name from its long ear tufts at the top of it’s head. These tufts of feathers are raised when the owl is alarmed or curious, but are flattened down when the bird is in a relaxed position and when flying. These owls are spotted brown colour, with bright orange eyes surrounded by black feathers.

Long-eared Owls are not listed as threatened, however they may become threatened in the future through the loss of natural habitats such as rough grassland, use of pesticides and the felling of conifer plantations during the breeding season.

Short-eared Owl  - Asio flammeus, Ulchabhán réisc

(Photo - Shay Connolly)

The Short-eared Owl is less commonly seen around Ireland than its cousin the Long-eared Owl. It is more numerous and widespread in winter than in the summer. During the winter it can be found in rough grasslands, coastal marshes and sand dunes, and in summer it can be found primarily in heather moorlands.

The Short Eared Owl nests on the ground in heather moorlands from late March until the end of the summer.  In Ireland, breeding is mainly confined to the Slieve Bloom Mountains.

Unlike Ireland’s other two owls, the Short-eared Owl hunts mainly during the day. It hunts small mammals such as rats and mice, but also sometimes birds and insects.

This owl looks somewhat like the Long-eared Owl, however as the name suggests it does not have the prominent ear tufts and has yellow, rather than bright orange-coloured eyes. The Short-eared Owl also has lighter coloured markings on its wings and on its breast.

For more information on Irish Owls check out the ENFO leaflet click here

©2007 Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government