October 23, 2021

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Builders save adorable barn owl babies during Cork cottage renovation

A group of builders renovating a cottage in Cork were in for quite the surprise when they were working on the roof this week.

While lifting off the corrugated iron sheet that covered the Duhallow cottage’s thatched roof, the builders were shocked to find three little barn owl chicks.

After laying down their tools and immediately contacting Bird Watch Ireland who came to the scene where the chicks were in good condition and had plenty of prey in their nest.

Bird Watch Ireland has said that the spot between the thatched roof and the newer iron roof is “a common nesting place for Barn Owls”.



The owl babies were spotted while this cottage in Dunhallow was being renovated, and works have now been paused until the chicks are gone.

“This is an all too common occurrence, often with a detrimental outcome,” they continued.

“The builders replaced the corrugated sheets and chicks were returned to the nest, as it was found. As the chicks are around seven weeks old, they will remain in the nest for another month or more.

“This means no further renovation works on the cottage will be carried out until after the young have left the nest. Although this would normally be a big set-back for the builders and homeowners, both were more than happy to postpone the works until the Barn Owls have finished breeding.”

Photographer Alan McCarthy, who works with Bird Watch Ireland, visited the cottage later on in the evening to check all was well, spotting the parent owls swopping in to feed their young three times in the half an hour he was there.



The new nest box set up for next year’s babies

Alan installed a nest box in a tree close to the cottage, with it hoped that the owl family will return there next year as they won’t be able to return to their previous home in the roof.

“We have had good success with nest boxes in similar situations in the past, and hopefully this will be the case and both the Barn Owls and the cottage owners will be in their new homes by next Spring!” said Bird Watch Ireland.

“We are very grateful to Aidan the builder for stopping the works once he noticed the Barn Owls and for contacting us, also to the owners, Mick and Alison, who were more than happy to do the best thing for the Barn Owls.”

Bird Watch Ireland advised that “derelict buildings are important for a wide range of wildlife”, and warned that care must be given when building works are being completed in similar locations to this cottage.

“Just as with this cottage in Duhallow, wildlife may be present in buildings without our knowledge. This can cause problems in buildings where works are carried out, which can result in unintentional but detrimental disturbance to wildlife, especially during the breeding season.

“This can be prevented by recognising the wildlife that are using a building and planning the works accordingly to avoid unintentional disturbance.”

Bird Watch Ireland have produced guidance on wildlife in buildings, and you can report information on any Barn Owl you may spot here.

The Duhallow Barn Owl Conservation Project is carried out in partnership with IRD Duhallow and funded through the Leader Programme.