A Yorkshire-wide campaign has begun to save the county’s threatened barn owls following drastic habitat loss and freak weather.

Numbers of the ghostly birds (pictured) have declined by 70 per cent since the 1930s, claims Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

And prolonged snow in March last year hit Yorkshire barn owls extra hard.

Dr Rob Stoneman, chief executive of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, said: “One of the main reasons behind this 70 per cent decline is the widespread loss of grassland habitat and natural nesting sites.

“Since the end of the Second World War, 97 per cent of the UK’s natural lowland grasslands have either been ploughed up or built upon. Barn owls also have far fewer nesting sites due to tree loss and barn restoration.

“This loss of habitat, along with the widespread use of agricultural chemicals like rodenticides, left UK barn owls with an estimated 4,000 breeding pairs in the mid 2000’s. Now the number of breeding pairs is thought to be as low as 1,000.

“Whilst we can’t control the weather, we can give barn owls the best possible chance of recovery by providing them with more nesting sites and high quality grasslands over which to hunt.”

To find out more about Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s campaign visit ywt.org.uk/ barnowl.