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Snow takes heavy toll on barn owls

Barn owls were badly affected by the snow and freezing conditions this winter, with a record number of birds that had been ringed found dead.

Barn owls have particular difficulty finding food when there is snow cover, which prevents them getting to their prey of small mammals.

The winter deaths follow a poor breeding season last year, in which brood sizes fell to their lowest levels for a decade. The extremely cold weather the previous winter left females in a poor condition to breed.

104 dead barn owls with rings were found in December, compared with the 30 to 40 normally expected for the month.