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New nests for Barn Owls in Chiddingfold Forest

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Barn Owl

The Forestry Commission has introduced new nest boxes for Barn Owls in Chiddingfold Forest, Surrey.

With its heart shaped white face and golden buff coloured wings laced with silver grey, the beautiful Barn Owl is symbolic of the English Countryside and yet there is a lack of suitable nesting habitat and the species is in decline.

The most recent survey of Barn Owls in the UK found just 4,000 pairs and according to the Barn Owl Conservation Network, there are just 35 pairs of Barn owls in the wild in Surrey.

Chiddingfold Forest provides a unique landscape, which is ideal for Barn Owls. It is near to farmland which is an ideal hunting ground and also provides areas of open landscape within the forest, where small mammals, such as, vole and mice are abundant.

Barn Owls take readily to nest boxes, so three lucky pairs may find the new nests for next years breeding season or take cover during the winter months. The Forestry Commission hopes the initiative, which is part of a rolling programme to introduce nest boxes over several years, will help to increase numbers of Barn Owls in Surrey.

Bruce Auchterlonie, the Forestry Commission’s beat forester, said:

“There are less barns and veteran trees with large holes for nesting nowadays and we really wanted to help our feathered friends at Chiddingfold. With my hand on my heart I can honestly say that conservation is more important to forestry today than ever before with the rapid decline in so many species.”

The Forestry Commission manages Chiddingfold Forest for sustainable timber, while also protecting the interests of the rarest species of wildlife including Barbastelle and Bechstein bats, the Purple Emperor butterfly and Woodwhite butterflies, the flagship species for the West Weald Landscape Project.

For members of the general public who may want to look out for the Barn Owls they are most likely to be seen hunting from the air. In flight the Barn Owls look like a large white bird, which is wonderfully graceful and the wings, spanning 85cm, are much bigger than the body.  It is also possible to hear Barn Owls shrieking and hissing, rather than hooting like the Tawny Owl.

The Barn Owl is specially protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, making it unlawful to intentionally or recklessly disturb it whilst it is preparing to nest or is at the nest with eggs or young, or to disturb its dependent young. Members of the public are advised to stay well away from nest boxes at all times.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Forestry Commission manages over 250,000 hectares (600,000 acres) of woodlands in England.  Most of this land is open for public access and the Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in the country. For further information visit

  2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands.

  3. Media Contact - Bruce Auchterlonie, Forestry Commission beat forester at Chiddingfold Forest Tel: 01420 23666 Email: