The Whitlingham Bird Report 2020 is available now (click here)

For previous years (2012-2019) see the links on the Whitlingham Bird List page.

NORTH-EAST NORFOLK: Happisburgh owl barn

20th September 2014

In the afternoon Cathy, Margaret & I went to Happisburgh Owl Barn. I only heard about the owl barn recently but as it only opens until the end of September we were keen to go before it shuts for the winter. The star attractions are two melanistic Barn Owls. These are very rare in general because of the mutation that causes the dark colouration, but are apparently almost unheard of in the wild because the parents don't recognise the dark chick as one of their own and eject it from the nest.

We spent a lovely couple of hours at the owl barn. The owner and staff were very friendly, making us a cup of tea when we arrived and answering questions. All of the owls have been hand-reared and can be held and observed close up. I know that captive birds aren't for everyone, but this collection are taken to events and used to get people who would otherwise have very little connection with the natural world to appreciate birds, so I think that's quite a worthy cause.

'Dusk' - one of two melanistic Barn Owls at Happisburgh

'Blizzard' (Photo Cathy Emerson)

[Postscript] After leaving the owls we headed on to Walcott for some chips on the seafront. As we left Happisburgh a flock of c30 Pink-footed Geese flew over, my first of the autumn. At least 12 Turnstones were on the seawall at Walcott, and scanning the sea we saw 6 Red-breasted Mergansers and 8 Brent Geese fly north. A distant Skua sp was probably an Arctic.


  1. Went there a while back, when that Snowy was much greyer, but they didn't have those Barn Owls. Agree with your sentiment regarding the worthiness. Not the biggest operation, but a nice set up. Will have to go back next year I reckon.

  2. Both dark Barn Owls are recent additions, the 2nd has only been there about a month I think. Everyone there was very passionate about owls and talking about conserving Barn Owls in the wild, which was good to hear.