Exclusion of barn owls Tyto alba from a greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum roost in Devon, UK

  • Published source details Bollo Palacios M., Kitching T., Wright P.G.R., Schofield H. & Glover A. (2023) Exclusion of barn owls Tyto alba from a greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum roost in Devon, UK. Conservation Evidence, 20, 8-12.


The greater horseshoe bat Rhinolophus ferrumequinum is a rare species in the UK that relies heavily on undisturbed stone buildings in which to breed. Barn owls Tyto alba are also a protected species that roost and raise their broods in similar places. This overlap in roosting requirements can lead to barn owls moving into buildings containing well-established greater horseshoe bat maternity colonies. This in turn could result in disturbance and abandonment of the building by the bats. Such an event occurred at one of the largest greater horseshoe bat roosts in the UK in 2018 when the colony deserted the roost after barn owls moved in. We describe measures used to exclude the owls while retaining access for the bats, to encourage the colony to return. The suite of modifications consisted primarily of wooden baffles and smooth surfaces on the entrances and doorways. Monitoring showed that the interventions were effective in excluding barn owls whilst allowing bats to access the building. Exclusion of the owls resulted in the return of the greater horseshoe bat colony in similar numbers to 2017 when owls were absent (2022: 92% of the adults) and breeding resumed (2022: 93% of the juveniles in 2017). This paper is the first to evaluate the before and after effects of protecting a bat roost from disturbance or predation by other species.

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