The Hawk & Owl Trust meets at the Ship Inn, Portishead, which is rather civilised because I can have a pint of Otter or Butcombe while listening to the talk. Before last night’s offering by Chris Sperring we heard the shocking statistic that some 3,000 barn owls are killed on Britain’s dual carriageways and motorways. Is this a yearly figure? No, it’s between September and March alone.
My outdated Larousse has the species’ population between 5,000 and 10,000 breeding pairs (The Barn Owl Trust has it at 4,000) with one, maybe two clutches of between four and seven eggs. It sounds like three or four chicks per year survive to fledge. What’s that? 12,000 to 40,000 birds? Probably at the lower end but let’s say 20,000.
Then we slaughter more than a seventh of the population increase by our insistence on ploughing through the country at 70mph (plus!) during the winter. Just by that. Not by any of the other reasons that kill barn owls, like other roads, other times of the year, drowning in cattle troughs, poisoning. Yes, unbelievably we’re so indiscriminate that still happens, probably more in the raptor-unfriendly north than the south.
All these deaths by human causes before natural starvation kicks in. Natural? We cause a great deal of that too by stealing their habitat.
Anyway, wouldn’t it be nice to save a few birds by slowing down on our roads? Nah, it’s far too important that we get from A to B as fast as possible. Go kill an owl.