On Raptors and Rodents: Research Seeks Symbiosis for Farmers and Owls

Eureka, Ca., (KIEM)-  Not every farm has a barn, but maybe they could all use a barn owl. A Humboldt State University Wildlife Biologist is looking at how the raptors could play a key role in pest control for vineyards in particular.

His team (comprised of both graduate and undergraduate students from HSU) installs and monitors nesting boxes set up in Napa. The more scientists learn about the owl’s nesting habits, the more they’ll be able to help farmers attract owls to their property. They were able to settle several owls into cozy nesting boxes. Then, they kept track of their hunting habits.

The boxes aren’t the only element of the project. Scientists also put GPS tags on the birds. This also helped them track nesting and hunting habits.

Biologist Matt Johnson says his team learned that the owls actually make a significant impact on the rodent populations in vineyards (mice and rats are capable of doing a LOT of damage to wine grapes and profits for vintners). In the future he hopes his work can be applied to reduce the use of rodenticides.  He hopes he can help farmers to work more sustainably, by showing them how healthy ecology can boost be a boon to profits.

For updates on Johnson’s research: click here.