The abundance of small mammal prey amongst the tall vegetation, and large areas of undisturbed hunting grounds, support a healthy population of barn owls. In 2016 we counted 18 chicks in barn owl boxes on the estate.
Little owls are proliferating thanks to our organic soils, now rich in earthworms and other invertebrates, and the fact that we no longer treat our livestock with avermectins. Animal dung is swiftly colonised by dung beetles – a favourite food of the little owl. We have counted 23 species of dung beetle in a single cow pat.
In 2015 we saw our first long-eared owls moving into Knepp from the South Downs. A secretive owl, it will no doubt be making the most of the growing-out shaws and our abundance of small birds and mammals.
All five UK owls - tawny, barn, little, short-eared and long-eared - have now been recorded at Knepp.