Farm Ireland
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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Pictures: Farmer makes rare discovery in his hay shed

The three owl chicks with rodents, past and present. Picture: Donal Sheehan
The three owl chicks with rodents, past and present. Picture: Donal Sheehan
FarmIreland Team

FarmIreland Team

Three young owls were uncovered by a farmer recently when he went to move bales in a shed.

The farmer, just outside Fermoy, Cork, was moving bales from last year to make room for more, when he found the young owls in situ with some rodent snacks!

He rang Birdwatch Ireland and local farmer and Birdwatch Ireland member Donal Sheehan visited the farm and advised the farmer to put back the bales and allow the young birds finish growing.

"He thought it was plastic bags between the bales but when he moved them he found it was young owls and some dead rodents the parent owls had brought them to eat.

"The bales were stacked four high and the chicks were right down the bottom. It's unusual to find owls nesting in among bales, they tend to choose disused chimneys or hollow trees."

The chicks, he said, are about three to four weeks old after being incubated for a few weeks by the mother owl, and will be able to leave the nest themselves in another few weeks.

The young owls were found in between round bales. Picture: Donal Sheehan
The young owls were found in between round bales. Picture: Donal Sheehan

"The mother would have been roosting in a nearby tree during the day time and they feed around 11pm. You hear the chicks with their hissing snore and it means they are hungry and it encourages the parents to go hunting."

As for the rodents, Donal said that Birdwatch Ireland would encourage farmers not to use rodenticides as they are then ingested by birds such as owls.

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"So many birds, including barn owls, rely on mice, rats and greater white toothed shrews for food. If the rodents have eaten poison they become disorientated and are easier for owls and other birds to catch. But it means the birds are then eating the poison too.

"Barn owls in Ireland are dying due to the use of rodenticide."

Alongside the rats, Donal and the farmer also found pellets - or coughed up bones and fur from digested rats.

According to Donal, when a barn owl ingests a rodent it does so whole, and the digestive system allows it to cough up the fur and bones and spit them out as a pellet three or four hours later.

"We can tell by the jaw bone of the pellet then what the rodent was and the owl was eating."

Bird watch Ireland will put a ring on their legs and adds them to its data base.


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