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With rangers lamenting the presumed death of the country’s oldest breeding female tawny owl in Kielder Forest – another old girl has been discovered to continue the assault on the record books.
Two years ago the Forestry Commission revealed that Boudica, a 21 year old female who had just given birth to three chicks, would become the oldest known UK tawny owl living in the wild if she survived for a few more months.
Although it’s believed she passed that milestone judging by evidence found in her nesting box in Kershope, Cumbria – part of Kielder Forest - she then vanished before she could be caught again to establish refutable proof.
But now experts have found a 20 year old tawny mum near Kielder Castle Visitor Centre, Northumberland, with four chicks. That’s almost twice the average life expectancy of females in the wild.
Brian Little, one of the leaders of the long running Kielder tawny owls project, said;
“It’s incredible to find tawnies of this age. Everyone was gutted by the death of Boudica, but to find a bird almost as old is real consolation. Mind you, she’ll need to keep Father Time at bay for another couple of seasons to notch the oldest tawny owl record. But with plenty of food around like voles you wouldn’t put it past her.”
Thanks to the 30 year tawny owl project in Kielder Forest – the longest running study of its kind in the UK – experts know that the latest geriatric owl was ringed as a chick in 1990. She had babies when she was just one year old in one of the 230 nesting boxes erected by the Forestry Commission. She then went missing for seven years before returning to the same box.
Tom Dearnley, Forestry Commission Ecologist, said:
“We 're constantly creating wildlife habitats in Kielder, but the proof of the pudding is how animals are faring. Judging by the way tawnies have taken to the forest, we are on the right track. It underlines the ecological importance of long term conservation work in this breathtaking wilderness.”
NOTES TO EDITOR
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. For more visit www.forestry.gov.uk/northeastengland
Richard Darn on 01226 246351. Mobile 0775 367 0038.