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Owl Box Program

Promoting Alternatives to Pesticides...

The Benefits of Owls

Yolo County is one of many regions in the State of California that provide habitat for native raptor species. In particular, areas in and around the City of Davis are well-established habitats for owls including the barn owl.

Barn owls are among the larger owl species, with wingspans of roughly 3.5 feet on average. They can be easily recognized by their characteristic light-colored breast plumage and heart-shaped faces. Despite their abilities as successful hunters, barn owls typically live for only a short time, surviving for an average of 18 months to 2 years.

Did You Know...?
One nest of six young barn owls and two adults may consume as many as 1,000 small mammals in a single nesting season.

What is an owl box?
Barn owl boxes are rectangular wooden shelters in which the owls will nest and roost. The owls will snuggle together on the box’s floor, and will remain there during most of the day. When night falls, barn owls will leave their box in pursuit of primarily rodent prey. Remarkably, Barn owls are able to hunt in complete darkness, and will use their acute sense of hearing and excellent vision to locate unsuspecting creatures

Barn owls will spot and swoop down upon their prey, which include rodents, insects and small birds. Once captured, prey is eaten or brought to the box of hungry offspring. It is possible that after Barn Owls have moved into a local owl box, you may see owl pellets inside or around the box. These small wads of hair, feathers and bones resemble scat but are regurgitated by the owls following digestion of prey. These odorless pellets are interesting to dissect, as the entire skeleton of the prey item can be found. When handling a pellet, be sure to wear rubber gloves and/or thoroughly wash your hands afterward.

Did You Know...?
One barn owl male can have multiple mates in a given breeding season, and sires between three and six owlets per mate.

Why not use rodent baits?
Each year, consumers from private homeowners to city businesses purchase rodent baits to keep their properties free of mice, rats and gophers. These pesticides, ranging from powders to pellets, are not only limited in their effectiveness, but also toxic, particularly to children and pets. Household rodent bait use may cause adverse health effects. Neighborhood owls can decrease the need for these toxic remedies by providing a natural and safe control for rodent pests.

Not only will you, your family and your pets benefit from the presence of local owls, stormwater runoff will too. By relying more on natural pest control methods, more toxic pesticides are kept out of your yard, storm drains and waterways.

What to do for an owl in need?

If you or someone you know finds a sick or injured owl, do not attempt to handle the animal. While owls are normally gentle birds, if they are injured or feel threatened, they may be dangerous. To report an ill or injured barn owl, please call the California Raptor Center at UC Davis at (530)752-6091.

The Bigger Picture

Whenever you use rodent bait or poison either outside or inside your home, remember where the bait can travel. If rinsed off of your property and into your gutter, the bait- contaminated water will flow into the city storm drainage system. This water moves through the storm drain piping below our streets to our rivers, creeks, wetlands, sloughs, the delta and the bay.

Stormwater fills the Davis storm water detention and wildlife ponds which are landscaped to support an array of wildlife species. Stormwater is also conveyed to the Davis Wetlands where it is used to support the wetlands system and all its wild inhabitants. Stormwater pollution can be extremely harmful to the health of the plants and animals in our community.

The City of Davis Owl Box Program and your efforts to reduce chemical rodent bait use are important in protecting the wildlife and aquatic resources in our local community.

Help us to protect your water resources for current and future generations.

For more information about how you can prevent water pollution please call the Environmental Compliance Coordinator, or for more detailed information about the City’s Barn Owl Box Program or plans to build your own owl box, call the Wildlife Resource Specialist. Both can be reached by calling (530)757-5686.

For other helpful hints including proper composting techniques and proper disposal of household chemicals, visit the City of Davis website.