Barn Owl & Small Mammal surveys carried out in Kilkenny

Barn Owl in Ash Tree (photo courtesy of Mike Brown)
Barn Owl in Ash Tree (photo courtesy of Mike Brown)

Kilkenny County Council Heritage Office, in partnership with Birdwatch Ireland, undertook two surveys this year, the Barn Owl and Small Mammal Survey in Kilkenny City and County.

The Barn Owl
The Barn Owl, with its brilliant white feathers and screeching call, was once a common sight throughout Ireland.  Over recent decades, Barn Owl populations have suffered extensive declines and are now a Red-listed Bird of Conservation Concern in Ireland.

Barn Owl in Ash Tree (phot courtesy of Mike       Brown)

Barn owls are a top predator and also an indicator species, meaning that a healthy population is a sign of a healthy countryside. Therefore, the declines in Barn Owl populations are extremely worrying. However, there is some good news. There seems to be early indications that Barn Owl populations may be recovering in Kilkenny. In recent years Barn Owl pairs have moved into nest boxes provided for them and re-established in old ruins which have not held Barn Owls for many years.

We sought the help of all residents by asking them to report any information they had on Barn Owls by visiting

Barn Owl Survey poster used on facebook and in the Kilkenny People newspaper

As part of the County Kilkenny Barn Owl survey, Birdwatch Ireland spoke to Kilkenny farmer Nicky Murphy to find out how he farms with Barn Owls and, with co-funding from the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2021 of the Dept. of Housing, Local Government & Heritage, they produced some short videos. Nicky tells us how he no longer needs to use rat poison and wants the barn owls to stay nesting on his farm – once they don’t go to Tipp! To view the videos click here  and here

This is the first countywide barn owl survey conducted in Kilkenny. The findings of the survey will provide a clear picture of the numbers of barn owls in the county and will help in the protection of nest sites and the provision of new nest boxes.

Small Mammal Survey
Small mammals, like wood mice, are an essential part of Kilkenny’s biodiversity and without them, iconic species like the barn owl would disappear.  Knowing what species of small mammal we have in Kilkenny and where they live, helps us in our efforts to protect our native biodiversity, including our barn owls. The County Council commissioned zoologist Dave Tosh to survey small mammals in Kilkenny during August. Dave was particularly interested to know if our native pygmy shrew is still present in Kilkenny or has been displaced by the non-native, larger Great White Toothed Shrew.

Survey poster for facebook and Kilkenny People newspaper

Ireland has 6 different kinds of small mammal. Four are native, the pygmy shrew, wood mouse, house mouse and rat, whilst two, the bank vole and greater white-toothed shrew were introduced to Ireland and are considered invasive.Small mammals are an important part of Ireland’s biodiversity. Without mice, shrews and voles, iconic species like the barn owl would disappear. We are attempting to discover which of Ireland’s six small mammals still occur across Kilkenny in two ways; by asking people to submit photos of small mammals they find or their cat brings home and; by live trapping small mammals across the county. We are particularly keen to see if Ireland’s smallest mammal, the pygmy shrew, still calls Kilkenny home as it is slowly being replaced by the invasive Greater White-toothed shrew.

We invited the public to become citizen scientists and to help record Kilkenny’s small mammals by sending their photos, along with the location, to  The information from this survey will be used to inform our on-going project with BirdWatch Ireland to map the barn owls in Kilkenny.

This small mammal survey project is supported by Kilkenny County Council, the Dept. of Housing, Planning and Heritage (under the National Biodiversity Action Plan Fund) and the Heritage Council.