barn owlBetween May and September 2018 there was an unusual spate of seasonal owl and raptor deaths in Victoria.

Three times the number of winter deaths of young barn owls and raptors were reported in 2018 compared with 2017. Thirty-eight dead birds from across the state were sent to veterinary labs for testing over a five-month period last year to determine the cause of death.

Program Manager Mark Breguet from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) says starvation, road accidents and rat poisoning are common causes of death among barn owls, particularly in winter months.

However, this year’s unexpected rise sparked an investigation, which found most birds were in poor condition, suggesting starvation from low numbers of prey.

Most of the birds were young and either had a low body weight or had empty stomachs. Other birds had injuries consistent with a vehicle collision or were found to have rodent poison in their system, suggesting consumption of poisoned rats or mice.

“Barn owls and raptors are an important part of the ecosystem as they can eat road kill, other carcasses and pests such as rabbits and hares,” Mr Breguet says.

DELWP is continuing to monitor the situation. All native wildlife in Victoria, including all birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, is protected by the Wildlife Act 1975. It is illegal to disturb or destroy protected wildlife without a licence, permit or authorisation.

Suspicious or mass deaths of wildlife can be reported to DELWP on 136 186. Crimes against wildlife can be reported to Crime Stoppers confidentially on 1800 333 000 or online on their website

Page last updated: 14/02/19