Owls in the British countryside, and particularly barn owls, face a number of challenges from changes to their environment. These include changes in agricultural practice, fewer suitable nesting sites and the building of new roads and houses. Their numbers are believed to have fallen dramatically in the recent years and there are many conservation projects dedicated to help them overcome these challenges.
There are around 13 species of owl living in Europe, ranging from Scandinavia to North Africa and Ireland to the edge of Asia. We currently accommodate two of these species – the European Eagle Owl and the Snowy Owl.
Owls also make an appearance in French, Welsh and Romanian mythology, generally being associated with both wisdom and ill-luck.
Despite their wide geographical spread, conservationists are becoming concerned about several European species, with habitats (especially forests) put under pressure from agriculture and urban development. There are several projects monitoring the European raptor and owl populations.
There is evidence of owls in Africa going back to the time of the Ancient Egyptians, including tomb paintings and mummified remains, An owl motif appears in Egyptian hieroglyphics. African folklore portrays owls as possessed by demons or as harbingers of death, a superstition that persists to this day.
Such beliefs pose some of the continent’s greatest conservation challenges, and conservationists must challenge them and gain community support if their work is to be successful. Other areas of Africa, however, have a strong conservation tradition.
Aborigines believe bats represent the souls of men and owls the souls of women. Owls are therefore sacred, because your sister is and owl – and the owl is your sister.
Again as with other owls across the world the main threat to their survival is loss of natural habitat due mainly to the influence of man and expansion of roads and houses.