Local families of Topanga Wildlife Youth Project build owl boxes to raise money for
the California Wildlife Center and to raise awareness about the plight of local
wildlifehawks, owls, mountain lions, coyotes and bobcats, who are eating rodents
laced with poisons.
Barn owls are a beautiful sight to behold with tawny wings, a pure white underbelly and heart shaped face. These incredible raptors fly silently at night and feed primarily on rodents and other small prey.
Recently, eight barn owl nesting boxes were delivered around Topanga to hopeful residents who want to reduce rodent populations.
We installed ours with a webcam, hoping that, in the near future, our Fernwood neighborhood may see, as well as hear the screeching sound of barn owls hard at work feeding their owlets with our poison-free rodent population.
Local families of Topanga Wildlife Youth Project built the owl boxes to raise money for the California Wildlife Center and to raise awareness about the plight of local wildlifehawks, owls, mountain lions, coyotes and bobcatsthat are being poisoned by eating what theyve always eaten, only these days, their meals are likely to be laced with poisons.
Several children have seen firsthand sick and dying wildlife and felt inspired to bring hope to Topanga by encouraging natural predators to do what comes naturally, eat rodents.
The children also embarked on a campaign to encourage local stores to refrain from selling poisons.
With the issues Topangas wildlife currently faces, barn owls could spell hope for us, too.
The National Park Service has found a 90 percent exposure to anti-coagulant rodenticides in bobcats; seven out of eight mountain lions, and 83 percent of coyotes that were tested were also found to have been exposed.
LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
PHOTO COURTESY OF CONNIE NAJAH
Longtime Topangan Delmar Lathers hangs an owl box high up on a tree in Topanga.
An abundance of rodents in or around your home might be the perfect environment to welcome barn owls, a predator that evolved with humans by nesting in structures such as barns or attics that typically have a lot of rodents nearby.
Historically, farmers worldwide welcome owls for their incredible efficiency in keeping rodent populations in check. Farmers in Israel and Jordan have used barn owls instead of pesticides to deal with rodents as part of a joint conservation venture called Project Barn Owl.
A beautiful venture grew as farmers encouraged barn owls to nest in more than 2,000 new boxes placed in fields in Israel and hundreds more in Jordan.
Today, more than 25,000 acres of farmland in Israel have been pesticide-free for 10 years solely using barn owls at night and kestrels during the day to control rodents.
The boxes were built according to plans from Hungry Owl Project (hungryowl.com) and are just big enough for a brood or parliament of barn owls and the nesting mother. These dedicated parents feed their babies all night long.
One family of barn owls can eat possibly 2,000-5,000 rodents in one year.
Young barn owls have a high metabolism and at the age of five or six weeks can eat the equivalent of one-and-a-half to two times their weight each day.
At seven weeks old, the fledglings may even weigh more than their parents who expend energy hunting each night to feed their offspring.
Because of the barn owl's short life span, they have developed a tremendous reproductive capacity. In some regions, barn owls have been known to nest year round. The boxes feature an entry hole size that is specific for Barn Owlstoo small for Great Horned Owls to enter and prey on them and their chicksa clean-out flap and a non-toxic, water-based paint that can extend the life of the box up to 10 years.
WHERE TO INSTALL YOUR OWL BOX
Barn owls are known to nest in all kinds of places where there is plenty of food such as near a meadow. A tree or pole that gives them easy access to swoop in without branches or structures getting in their way and is not to close to your home is ideal. They can be noisy while the owlets are in the nest.
If boxes are placed on poles, the poles should be within 100 yards of a large tree so that the young have a nearby place to fly to when they fledge. Mount boxes close to where your rodent problem is but not right over the top because barn owls tend not to draw attention to their nesting brood by hunting right below their nest.
Owl boxes can be installed any time of the year, but the most likely time for them to become inhabited is during the winter months. Included with the boxes are instructions for mounting and neighborhood signs to let neighbors know that barn owls are nesting in the area and to please not use rodent poisons.
To care for your nesting boxes:
Clean the box every year before nesting season
Dont place boxes over cars or places you dont want a mess
Dont use rodent poisons and make sure your neighbors dont either!
We hope to build more owl boxes in the future. If you would like to participate or know someone who would donate materials, please contact email@example.com.