Barn Owls Consume Loads of Vertebrate Pests

Barn Owls for Integrated Pest Management

By Tim Hammerich with

Farmers have always turned to integrated pest management to control crop pests in both an economic and environmentally sustainable way. This includes vertebrate pests like gophers, voles, and mice.

Ryan Bourbour is a graduate student at UC Davis who studies what raptors eat in agricultural settings and during migration. One of the projects he is working on involves the use of barn owls for integrated pest management.

“Basically, if you have a pocket gopher problem or meadow vole or even mice. Barn owls are one of the most efficient hunters of those agricultural pests,” said Bourbour.  “So they’re cavity nesters, and they readily use artificial cavities for breeding and even roosting. So if you want to check barn owls to hunt on or near your property or, adjacent to a crop field, you can just install nest boxes, and as soon as they find them, they’ll readily use them.”

Depending on how many are already in your area, it could take a long time for them to find your new nest box. But they’ll stick around as long as they are finding plenty of food.

“A single nest will consume a little over 200 pounds of rodent prey each year. And I think in California vineyards it has been estimated, that a single nest will remove about 800 gophers, 600 voles, and over 1500 mice per year. Even just having barn owl activity on farms has been shown to reduce gopher activity, so less mounds, gophers are more vigilant, they won’t be as active,” he said.

Plus owls are just beautiful creatures to have around.