THERE can be no doubt that barn owls are one of this country’s most beautiful and best loved birds.

But they are also one of our most endangered birds, and no more so than in Cheshire.

In the mid-1930s, there were a reported 250 or so breeding pairs of barn owls in Cheshire. But over the years there was a steady decline in numbers resulting in the mid-1980s in just a handful of birds remaining.

This decline was linked to an increase in intensive farming (removing vital hunting habitat) together with the conversion of barns and loss of hedgerows/trees (removing nest sites).

However, thanks to the work of a small number of volunteers and support from landowners and farmers, the decline has been halted with the number of barn owls steadily increasing [although current numbers are still barely half of those 90 years ago].

The turn around in the fortune of the barn owls in Cheshire can be pin pointed to some 25 years ago when George Bramall together with other like-minded friends set up a barn owl group in the Broxton area of the county.

Based on their success, together with help from the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, the Mid Cheshire Barn Owl Conservation Group came into being in 2000.

Indeed, over the eighteen years of its existence, the Mid Cheshire Group has extended its operations and now manages barn owl conservation work in the North, South, North East and East of Cheshire; essentially two-thirds of the county.

“The group makes and erects barn owl boxes throughout the year and monitors them for successful breeding activity,” explained John Mycock, chairman of the Mid Cheshire Barn Owl Conservation Group.

More than 1,100 boxes having been erected so far.

“Wherever possible the birds are ringed for future information and research and their hunting activities monitored to establish habitat requirements,” he added.

“All the work has been actively supported by landowners and farmers who, like many people throughout the country, want to see these birds return in numbers to our countryside.

“The important question, however, is whether the work of the group is making a difference. Well, in 2000 only five pairs of breeding barn owls were recorded in the area. In 2018, 132 breeding pairs were recorded, rearing some 308 chicks – the figures speak for themselves.

“But the success of the group has its downside. Due to the loss of natural breeding and roosting sites over the years, and the success of its box installation programme, now around 90 per cent of the breeding barn owls in Cheshire rely on man-made boxes (with similar figures around the UK). Consequently, the work by the group must, therefore, continue.”

If you want to learn more about the work of the various barn owl groups in the county, and how you can help and get involved, log on to or contact the Mid Cheshire Group on The group also has Facebook and Twitter accounts.