A HAMPSHIRE zoo operator is celebrating six healthy chicks which have been recorded on the estate this year.

Marwell Wildlife, which own and operate Marwell Zoo in Hampshire, has been carrying out its annual barn owl checks on its land surrounding the zoo.

The six healthy, and fluffy, owlets come from two breeding pairs on the estate and include three female and three male, aged between five to seven weeks old.

Hampshire Chronicle:

The checks involved detailed measurements to include the weight, wing feather development, body condition and wing length, as well as noting any unique markings, which help to determine each chick’s age and gender.

Dr Martin Wilkie, conservation biologist at Marwell Wildlife, said: “We’ve consistently got better results with more owlets each year, and to have two breeding pairs using nest boxes in close proximity to each other is testament that our traditional meadow management approach is not only working, but is proving very successful.”

The owlets were then ringed, to identify each owl in the future, and returned safely to the nest boxes by Dr Matt Stevens, conservation biologist from the Hawk Conservancy Trust and Rob Nicholls, countryside manager at South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).

Hampshire Chronicle:

Dr Matt Stevens said: “The quality of the habitat at the Marwell estate is particularly good.

“This enables common prey, such as field voles, shrews and mice, plenty of cover and allows their numbers to build up, providing an excellent food supply for barn owls and their young.”

Marwell has three barn owl nest boxes within 1.2km from each other.