Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) have recently published a link on their website to the most recent barn owl survey guidelines to be considered for all new national road schemes. The document provides a brief overview of barn owl ecology, recent research about their foraging behavior and appropriate survey methodologies.
The document has been prepared to better inform the development of national road schemes as such infrastructure may impact on the species through the loss of nesting sites and displacement of nesting pairs, and through direct mortality due to vehicle collisions during the operational phase of road networks. During the planning of national road schemes, information on barn owl populations is therefore necessary to identify the scale of likely impacts and appropriate mitigation strategies. Due to their spatial distribution, low population densities and nocturnal activity patterns, barn owls are a challenging species to survey. Nest sites are often difficult to access and detect and may not be recorded by standard bird survey techniques. The survey methods outlined in the new publication are designed to locate all barn owl breeding sites within a defined ‘zone of influence’ to inform all phases of the planning, construction and operation of national road schemes in Ireland. The methods are informed by best practice survey methods and knowledge of barn owl ecological and nesting requirements, specific to the Irish context. This is based on research and monitoring of the species in recent years undertaken by BirdWatch Ireland.