Image of the Barn Owl in one of Seaton Wetlands bird hides

East Devon Countryside Team rangers dissecting the diet of a Barn Owl at Seaton Wetlands

The East Devon District Council Countryside Rangers have been left puzzled by some unusual feeding behaviour of a Barn Own at Seaton Wetlands.

Seaton Wetlands Nature Reserve, which is managed by the Countryside team on behalf of the council is home to a range of birds. Barn Owls are often seen flying over the reserve, particularly on summer evenings or in the morning after a wet night.

The owl in question has been leaving evidence of its feeding remains in one of the bird hides. However, after some unusual prey was left behind, Countryside team leader, James Chubb decided to investigate.

We were aware that a Barn Own was using one of the hides to eat its prey, the volunteers have been kept very busy clearing up poo and owl pellets! However, after remains of snipe, water rail and little grebe were left in the hide we started to question whether it really was a Barn Owl – this is unusual prey for it to choose.

said James.

James installed a trail camera in the bird hide which is activated by movement after dark. The camera has captured some fascinating images which show the owl eating all of the above bird species, and frogs!

James said:

While it is not unprecedented for barn owls to take frogs in the spring, their preferred prey species are small mammals such as field voles. Not only is this barn owl taking large birds, but in the case of the little grebe, the owl must have grabbed it off the surface of the water, a very precarious hunting method for a barn owl indeed! 

It’s really exciting to see that the Barn Owl has been eating such unusual prey. What is even more wonderful is the image it captured of two barn owls using the hide to roost. Seaton Wetlands is certainly a place you can experience wildlife as close as it gets!

Councillor Tom Wright, East Devon District Council's portfolio holder for the environment said:

There is an amazing wealth of wildlife to be found at Seaton Wetlands. It is wonderful that there is a barn owl making use of the site, and I for one look forward to hearing more about Barn Owl discoveries. 

Seaton Wetlands is a free to visit site which is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. The Discovery Hut at Seaton Wetlands is open from 10am to 4pm Saturday to Monday where visitors can purchase refreshments and learn more about the wildlife found on the reserve from knowledge volunteers. Events take place throughout the year including regular ‘What’s that bird?’ sessions where you can learn more about bird identification. To find out more about visiting Seaton Wetlands and upcoming events you can visit
The Countryside team can be contacted via email: or phone: 01395 517557.