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In the past feared for its piercing cry, and persecuted by gamekeepers, the 'white owl' is now one of Britain's favourite birds. This book charts the changes in British farming and countryside and shows how they affected the fortunes of the barn owl. Although once common (and barn owls were even seen in the Strand), they are now cause for concern, and various surveys have tried to establish their numbers: from about 12,000 breeding pairs in England and Wales in 1932, by 1987 modern farming techniques, and changes to the countryside including lack of hedgerows, loss of barns, increase of arable farming, had brought about a dramatic decrease, and the 2nd barn owl survey concluded there were only 4,418 breeding pairs in England, Wales and Scotland.
The barn owl is now protected under Part 1, Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Jeff Martin propounds theories as to why the decline has happened, and attempts to peer into the future to see how changes in population, agriculture and the coastal footprint will affect barn owls. To understand the reasons why the barn owl is finding modern life difficult, you must be familiar with its nesting habits and preferred diet; these subjects are fully discussed by the author, as well as other aspects of its life: courtship, mating, breeding, rearing young, hunting, movements.