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Barn Owl Box Company Booth at the World Ag Expo Tulare CA

The Barn Owl Box Company Booth at the World Ag Expo 2018

Discount prices for the molded plastic Barn Owl                  Box at the World Ag Expo

The Barn Owl Box Company will have a booth (Booth 1327, Pavilion A & B) at the World Ag Expo, being held February 13 – 15, 2018 in Tulare, California. The expo is the largest agricultural exposition held annually in the country, attracting nearly 200,00 visitors, many of whom are in the agricultural industry. Professionals involved in the vineyards, orchards, hay fields, row crops, and cattle industry from all over the United States will attend. This will be the company’s third time hosting at the expo where interest in our products is always very high.

World Ag Expo Special Discounts

Nest boxes ordered at the expo will be priced at World Ag Expo discounts. Nest boxes normally priced at $189 will be on sale for $169; orders of 10 or more will be priced at $149 each.

Free Consultations Regarding Using Barn Owls for Rodent Control

Barn Owl Box Company representatives, including Mark Browning, field researcher and designer of the nest boxes, will be present to answer

questions regarding attracting barn owls and their effectiveness in reducing rodent numbers in various types of agriculture.  Information specific to the needs of individual farms and vineyards will be available, including advice on nest box density, integrated pest management approaches, and installation location preferences.

Barn Owl Box Company Distributors Sought

California is hands down the most cutting edge state in terms of using barn owls for rodent control. Our distributors, mainly farm and irrigation supply stores, do extremely well with our products and we seek to expand our distributors in the state. Interested parties should stop by our booth or call 412-874-9403 to set up a meeting ahead of time.

World Ag Expo General Info

Held February 13-15, 2018. Tuesday & Wednesday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.. Thursday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.. General Admission $15 at the gate. Children 6 and under, free. Location International Agri-Center 4500 South Laspina Street Tulare, California.

Newly Published Paper Shows How Barn Owls Can Reduce Rodents in Agriculture

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66 young barn owls fledged from 18 active nests in 2012 on a single 100 acre vineyard.

The Barn Owl/Rodent Study

Just published in the Journal of Pest Management, Newport Beach, California: From 2011 through 2013, researcher Mark Browning and a team of students from U.C. Davis and Columnes River College saturated a 100-acre vineyard south of Sacramento, California with 25 barn owl nest boxes, eventually resulting in a population of 36 adult owls that fledged 66 young. This produced a population of 102 barn owls hunting the vineyard and surrounding area. Using data gleaned from nest box cams, the research was able to conclude that this rather incredible density of owls consumed 30,000 + rodents over a three year period. Statistical analysis showed a strong correlation of number of owls to a decline in rodent activity. This study is the first of its kind to accurately record the number of rodent deliveries to growing barn owl chicks, and the first to establish the economic value of barn owls to farmers and property owners. Cost comparison data showed that the average cost of trapping per rodent was $8.11 while the nest box program resulted in a cost of .27 per rodent taken by barn owls. This provides very valuable and useful information for farmers to use in assessing the effectiveness and results of barn owl nest box programs.

Here is the full text of the paper:

Prey Consumption by a Large Aggregation of Barn Owls in an Agricultural Setting

Barn Owls in Kentucky

Kentucky Barn Owls

Kentucky DNR is erecting barn owl nest boxes in good habitat

Kentucky DNR is erecting barn owl nest boxes in good habitat

The Barn Owl is on Kentucky’s list of Species of Greatest Conservation Need under their State Wildlife Action Plan and on their Heritage program’s list of species of special concern.  In recent years, the state has been busy installing barn owl boxes on buildings, trees and poles in areas with suitable habitat.  They also encourage private landowners to do the same and provide info on their website for this purpose.

According to the Kentucky DNR website: “The infrequency of reports of this species in Kentucky is somewhat surprising because much suitable habitat in the form of pastures, hayfields, croplands, reclaimed surface-mine lands, and restored grasslands is present. In fact, 38% of the state is composed of undeveloped, open land (grassland/herbaceous, pasture, cropland, etc.). With such an abundance of suitable habitat, it seems Kentucky should host an abundance of Barn Owls. It is likely that the scarcity of breeding records is in part due to the elusive nature of these nocturnal predators.”

“Barn owls are sparsely scattered through most of the state except for the eastern fifth, where they are very rare.” says Kentucky State

Thanks to Kentucky Department Of Natural Resources

Thanks to Kentucky Department Of Natural Resources

Biologist Kate Heyden. “Most records are coming in from the western third and north-central parts of the state,” she adds. “Though part of the issue of finding barn owls may be getting access to old barns and silos on private property, my gut feeling is that even though we are likely missing some owls out there, the bird is still rare.  We have very few barn owls brought into rehab centers and few road kills. Nonetheless, we finally started putting boxes on poles this year in one of the best areas of the state for barn owls.  I’m hoping we’ll start some population expansion there.”

As with other states such as Ohio, where biologists have erected over 400 nest boxes on barns, and Illinois, where biologists have reported an increase from three known breeding pairs to over sixty, Kentucky is poised to bolster their barn owl populations through its ongoing nest box program, especially since the state possesses widespread prime habitat.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources encourages residents to install nest boxes and would like to learn more about nesting Barn Owls.  Please report Barn Owl nests to 1-800-858-1549 or to kate.slankard@ky.gov.

Barn Owls in Ohio

Ohio Barn Owls

Nest boxes in Ohio are helping increase the barn owl population

Nest boxes in Ohio are helping increase the barn owl population dramatically

Once very common in Ohio, barn owl populations dwindled since the 1950’s. Now the barn owl is making a dramatic comeback in the state, due to nest box programs being conducted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

Since 1988 agency biologists have installed nest boxes on more than 400 barns. The number of nests known nests increased from 19 in 1988 to more than 100 in 2012, and that number is only increasing. Biologists believe many nest in areas other than these boxes.

Barn owls are doing particularly well in the southwestern region of the state in counties that border the Ohio River. But other rivers, orchards, cattle farms, and hay and wheat fields throughout the state also provide good habitat. Corn and soy farms, on the other hand, attract few of these owls.

The benefit to farmers in the region has high potential. One barn owl family will take approximately three thousand rodents per year, mainly voles, mice, and rats. These pests can breed out of control and eat huge amounts of grain, girdle trees in orchards, and cause untold damage to floors and wiring in barns and outbuildings. A family or two of owls on a farm can make a noticeable difference.

The Ohio DNR encourages residents to install nest boxes in good habitat. Reporting sightings of barn owls helps the Division of Wildlife biologists estimate how many live in Ohio. This information benefits conservation efforts by tracking where and how the owls live. People who have barn owls living near them, they are encouraged to call the ODNR Division of Wildlife at 800-WILDLIFE (945-3543) or email wildinfo@dnr.state.oh.us.

 

Colorado Barn Owls

Barn owls are common in Colorado

Barn owls are common in areas of Colorado

Barn Owls in Colorado

Barn owl numbers are good in the prairies and grasslands of eastern Colorado and in the valleys and scrub lands of the western part of the state. They nest in cottonwoods, hay bales, riverbanks, culverts, old mines, and even excavate their own nesting burrows in sandstone cliffs. They do well near fields of alfalfa and row crops as well as on the grassy plateaus at 5000 to 6500 feet. The central part of the state is dominated by the Rocky Mountains where barn owls are rare to nonexistent. Open field hunters, barn owls typically avoid forested areas and high altitudes.

Barn Owl Prey in Colorado

ORANGE = GOOD POPULATIONS OF BARN OWLS IN COLORADO

Barn owls are common in eastern Colorado and in the western valleys (Orange areas)

As in many arid western states, the kangaroo rat, an inhabitant of dry scrub and desert, is an important prey. Named for their habit of hopping along on their two hind legs, kangaroo rats are natural denizens of arid areas and provide a staple food for barn owl populations. However, in the agricultural areas, with large orchards of peaches and apples, barn owls concentrate on vole and gopher populations that are always attracted to fruit farms. Cattle remains Colorado’s largest agricultural enterprise, and on cattle farms, barn owls will likely find house mice and Norwegian rats to be the most common prey.

Barn Owls Digging their own Burrows

It was in New Mexico in 1973 when a researcher (Martin) witnessed barn owls excavating their own nesting burrow in an arroyo wall. Later, in 1978, two researchers (Millsap and Millsap), conducted more extensive research on this phenomenon in Colorado. They found that barn owls preferred to dig their own burrows over occupying already existing nest boxes even though it took a lot more effort. Burrows were typically dug directly into the hillside ending in a round hollow where the eggs were laid. Burrows took between five and nine nights to excavate. The researchers concluded that the burrows into the earth provided a survival advantage over other types of nest sites: they were cooler during the heat of the day, and provided more protection from predators.

Kansas Barn Owls

Barn Owls in Kansas

Kansas grasslands provide excellent barn owl habitat

Kansas grasslands provide excellent barn owl habitat

Kansas has abundant good habitat for barn owls including prairie, pasture, hayfields, river valleys, and scrublands, all with good supplies of food in the form of voles, mice, and kangaroo rats. Barn owls are present in every county, and anywhere they can find barns, outbuildings, abandoned houses, holes in cliffs, and nest boxes, they colonize very quickly. The main problem in Kansas is that suitable nesting sites in much of this good habitat are very scarce. Grasslands and hayfields stretch for miles without good nesting places.

Residents who put up nest boxes are often rewarded very quickly by barn owls taking up residence.

Barn owls both find and dig nest holes along the Cimarron River

Barn owls both find and dig nest holes along the Cimarron River

Max Thompson, a well-known birder and author of bird books of Kansas, agrees that a lack of nesting sites keeps barn owl populations lower than they could be. He does say that barn owls are common along the Cimarron River in the southwestern part of the state, particularly Morton County, where they find or even dig hollows in the clay and rock banks. This would indicate that anywhere in Kansas where high banks or cliffs border river valleys, barn owls will be present in good numbers. Both the Cimarron and the Arkansas River systems are comprised of many such tributaries.

Likewise, nest boxes should meet with good success in the state, since barn owls are always on the lookout for suitable breeding sites.

Idaho Barn Owls

Barn owl nests in the cliffs along the Snake River are common

Barn owl nests in the cliffs along the Snake River are common

Barn Owls in Idaho

As our range map shows, barn owl populations in the southern half of Idaho are excellent from the agricultural valleys to the high desert scrublands; the northern half is too heavily forested for barn owls except for certain lower altitude valleys in the west.

Biologist Bruce Haak of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game cites the existence of thousands of miles of river cliffs, such as those along the Snake River, where barn owls find abundant crevices and holes in lava, sandstone, and clay for nesting. In the agricultural valleys of orchards, crops, wheat, and irrigated hay, he says they breed in barns, silos, and other outbuildings. The desert scrub provides high numbers of rodents, including kangaroo rats; the farm lands produce rich supplies of voles and pocket gophers.

Road deaths of barn owls on Idaho highways have drawn a lot of attention. Jim Belthoff, biology professor at Boise,

Barn owls ready to fledge

Barn owls ready to fledge

has estimated that a few thousand barn owls die each year on roads in the state. Despite these high numbers, it must be kept in mind that the presence of so many barn owls (of which a percentage do succumb to being hit by vehicles) is actually a sign of a very healthy barn owl population in the surrounding countryside. Barn owls produce large numbers of young to offset high mortality (as much as 75% in the first year), and there are no signs that road deaths are adversely effecting barn owl numbers in the state. One of the main reasons that barn owls get hit so often is that they are edge hunters, and the roads provide just such an edge.

Idaho contains excellent numbers of barn owls in the southern half

Idaho contains excellent numbers of barn owls in the southern half

A large pellet study revealed that barn owls in Idaho prey heavily on voles (meadow mice), however this will vary depending on the specific area. Where pocket gophers or kangaroo rats predominate, they will likely predominate in the owl diet.

Farmers of blueberries, grapes, apples, and other crops are using barn owls in nest box programs in Idaho to help suppress rodent pests.

Wisconsin Barn Owls

Barn Owls in Wisconsin

Wisconsin grasslands

Wisconsin grasslands provide excellent barn owl habitat

The barn owl in Wisconsin is rare and listed as endangered. Most breeding records have come from the southern counties where the state Bureau of Endangered Resources has attempted to bolster barn owl populations over the years by installing over one hundred nest boxes and releasing captive bred owls. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in recent years has also installed a number of nest boxes.

Although natural grasslands and wetlands have declined in the state and been replaced by row crops such as soy, there are plenty of pastures and meadows remaining throughout the state. A main limiting factor is the severe winters, particularly the heavy snowfalls that regularly occur, making it difficult if not impossible for barn owls to catch prey beneath the snow. Mild winters allow barn owl populations to grow, but a single heavy snowfall that lasts over a week on the ground can severely set back barn owl numbers.

Nonetheless, barn owls do breed each year in the state and nest box programs have had some success. The range map is from the Natural Heritage Inventory Base in 2012 and shows counties of confirmed nesting. Keep in mind that such records are dependent on field work which is often limited and that barn owls can be very difficult to detect since they are secretive and nocturnal. Chances are that there are more barn owls than found and that other counties may harbor them. Residents in these or neighboring counties who live in good habitat such as grasslands, wetlands, or pasture would be helping conservation efforts by installing nest boxes and contacting their local DNR office when barn owls are seen.

Barn Owl Breed and Release Program in Wisconsin

The state of Wisconsin conducted captive breeding program and released 98 young birds into the wild between 1982 and 1987. This program was discontinued since there was no apparent increase in barn owls in the wild. This is typical of such barn owl breed and release programs – due to dramatic dispersal of young in the fall, high mortality, and low returns to natal areas, barn owls are not a suitable species for breed and release. Habitat enhancement, such as nest box programs, have proven to be far more effective.

Barn Owl Diet and Nesting in Wisconsin

Barn owls in Wisconsin feed mainly on voles (meadow mice) and shrews. They nest in silos, barns, outbuildings, tree cavities, and nest boxes. They breed March through July, laying three to nine eggs, with four or five on average. Researchers believe that most Wisconsin barn owls leave for the winter, but there are records of overwintering as well. It may be the young that disperse in the fall, and the adults that stay as in many other states.

An excellent large paper on the barn owl in general, with Wisconsin as a subset focus: http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/er/publications/reports/pdfs/ER_report037.pdf

Connecticut Barn Owls

Barn Owls in Connecticut

Barn owls are rare in Connecticut

Barn owls are rare in Connecticut

Barn owls have always been uncommon to rare in Connecticut due to the state’s harsh winters. They are principally found along the coast and within the large river valleys of the state. Breeding has been confirmed in coastal areas and near Middletown, 30 miles in from the coast, where there is an active monitoring and nest box program. The already low Connecticut population is declining from habitat loss as reforestation encroaches on grasslands and the numbers of small farms dwindle. Biologist Laura Saucier, who monitors barn owls for the state, says that they typically find less than five occurrences each season and that most nests are within a few miles of the coast. That said, there are always more barn owls than detected, and the fact that Middletown, near the center of the state, hosts barn owls, raises the possibility that others exist in counties not being monitored.

History of the barn owl in Connecticut: The barn owl has always occurred in low numbers in Connecticut due to the state’s northern latitude and deep winter snows which prevent the owls from grabbing their prey beneath the surface. Historic records from the late 1800’s indicate the bird was considered a rare breeder in the state then, with records from coastal areas such as  Stratford, Madison, Stamford, Leesville, and New London County. But there were also inland sites along the Connecticut River such as Portland and East Hartford as well sites further west such as Litchfield and Winsted, where one pair in an abandoned factory produced 6 young in 1892 and 7 eggs in 1893. As low as the population was in the nineteenth century, it is undoubtedly lower today.

Barn owls are known to inhabit only near the coast and inland near Middletown

Barn owls are known to inhabit only near the coast and inland near Middletown (gray areas) in small numbers

Diet and Breeding in Connecticut

Barn owls eat mainly voles and shrews in Connecticut. Breeding occurs April through August.

Installing Barn Owl Nest Boxes in Connecticut

Nest boxes would best be installed within ten miles of the coast, or in the Middletown area where barn owls have been known to breed. Any sightings of barn owls should be reported to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection at 860-424-3000.

Iowa Barn Owls

Barn Owls in Iowa

barn_owl-flying-rodent

Barn owls eat mostly meadow mice (voles) in Iowa

Iowa once had far more barn owls than it does today, though the numbers in Iowa were never very high due to the normally severe winters. The main problem for barn owls is not so much cold as it is deep snow. When a heavy snow remains on the ground for more than a week, many barn owls succumb. Even so, the numbers of barn owls present in the state have declined as good habitat has disappeared.

 Today, Bruce Ehresman, Iowa DNR Wildlife Diversity Program says that the state usually locates around twelve nests per year, so there are probably a number that they do not find. Most nests are found in southern and southwestern Iowa.

Iowa Prairie

Iowa Prairie is good habitat for barn owls

 Iowa has lost 90% of its original 4.5 million acres of wetlands to farm conversion. Prairie has also seen similar losses. But today, Iowans are restoring wetlands and prairie. Farmers are creating 10,000 acres of wetlands under the federal Conservation Reserve Program, and another 91,000 acres are being created by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and the federal Wetlands Reserve Program. Prairie too is being restored.

All of this bodes well for the barn owl in Iowa where efforts to help this beautiful bird have been in place since the 1980’s when the state attempted breeding and releasing 400 young owls in good habitat. Biologists placed radio transmitters on 36 released owls in 1985. Twenty-four of the birds perished in the first 60 days, and thirteen of them appeared to have been killed by great horned owls.

Without evidence that the program increased barn owl numbers, the IDNR finally ended the captive breeding program. They shifted the program’s emphasis from stocking birds to placement of secure nesting boxes in areas where owls have been seen. Most of the boxes are placed in old barns surrounded by extensive CRP grasslands.

Old barns near extensive grasslands could be a key to survival of the species in Iowa. State biologists encourage residents to install nest boxes in good habitat and to report any sightings and more interested yet in possible nesting attempts. The IDNR can be reached by calling 515-432-2823.

 

West Virginia Barn Owls

Barn Owls in West Virginia

The South Branch Valley harbors high numbers of barn owls along the Potomac River

The South Branch Valley harbors high numbers of barn owls along the Potomac River

This small, mountainous state, with its extensive forests, provides intermittent, yet excellent habitat for barn owls in its narrow valleys of pasture and hay that spread like numerous fingers between the hillsides. The saving grace of West Virginia farmland is that the steep hills do not afford the chance to farm intensively; always there are plenty of trees, hedges, and fields gone fallow. In the southern portion of the state, reclaimed strip mines also provide good hunting habitat though nesting sites are scarce. Ironically, these machinery-flattened mountaintops revert to wild grasslands where a number of normally rare species find homes, including Grasshopper, Vesper, and Henslow’s Sparrows.

West Virginia is one of those states where barn owls are declared uncommon due only to a lack of surveys. Compounding the problem, most barn owl habitat is located on remote, privately owned farms and researchers must rely on farmers to report the owls.

 

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

Barn owls raise large numbers of young

Barn owls raise large numbers of young

Biologist Richard Bailey of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has seen signs of barn owls throughout the state. He reports that the greatest concentrations of barn owls exist in the eastern half of the state, especially the South Branch Valley (Potomac River), the land surrounding Petersburg in Grant County, and in the Shenandoah Valley that runs through the far eastern panhandle, including Hardy, Mineral, Hampshire, and Morgan Counties. (However, barn owls in the remaining part of the panhandle, Jefferson and Berkeley Counties, are under increasing pressure from development.) He also cites southeastern counties such as Pendleton, Pocahontas, and Greenbrier, and the Ohio River floodplain in the northwestern part of the state as other areas that harbor barn owls in fair numbers. So, in general, good populations exist in the eastern third and the north and west; lower populations are expected in the middle of the state, yet the open valley floors between the mountains still harbor breeding pairs.

Barn Owl Range Map  West Virginia

Barn Owl Range Map
West Virginia

Range Map of Barn Owls in West Virginia

The map shows the abundance of barn owls by county. The orange counties are those with excellent populations due to plenty of open farmland, and numerous farm buildings and silos for nesting. Fair populations live in the yellow areas, and even the gray areas host breeding pairs in the many narrow open valleys between the hills. Even Brooke County at the upper western tip, where barn owls have nested in and around Bethany College for years,  is thought to have a number of this large whitish owl.

West Virginia Barn Owl Breeding Sites and Seasons

Surprisingly, barn owls prosper as high as 3000 feet in the mountain valleys and even more surprising, they have been found breeding anywhere from February to November. So, despite the mountains, barn owls breed here even during winter. Most of the current nesting sites are in hollow trees, silos, barns, abandoned houses, and other outbuildings. Bailey has found piles of pellets four to five feet high in some locations that have obviously been used for decades. Pellet studies show the meadow mouse (vole) to be the predominant prey item, with shrews as the second most important food.

Reporting Barn Owl Sightings

West Virginia biologists are interested in hearing about barn owls in the state. To report sightings, please call the West Virginia Division of Wildlife in Elkins at 304-637-0245 or in Romney at 304-822-3551.

 

 

Delaware Barn Owls

Barn Owls in Delaware

Delaware is a perfect example of how each state seems to have its own dynamic in terms of barn owl populations. Biologist Wayne Lehman, Division

Barn owls most common along the coast

Barn owls most common along Delaware Bay

of Fish and Wildlife, reports that barn owls are found primarily along the coastal salt marshes where their numbers are excellent. He attributes nest boxes to being responsible for a good percentage of successful breeding sites. In the rest of the state, dense human populations, and the relatively sterile environments of soy, corn, and potatoes tend to keep barn owl numbers low.

Plenty of research on barn owls in Delaware has been conducted. Since 1996, Delaware biologists have banded 618 barn owls, including young from 135 nests. In addition, they have captured banded birds from as far away as Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, and birds banded in Delaware have been captured regularly in New Jersey. So, the population of barn owls moves around dynamically, particularly in the fall and spring.

A companion study to the Delaware Fish and Wildlife is being conducted by the Barn Owl Research Foundation across the Delaware River in New Jersey, underway since 1980.

Delaware's salt marshes hold good populations

Delaware’s salt marshes hold good populations

Despite low owl numbers in the rest of the state, residents who live amid good habitat – hayfields, grasslands, and marsh – would be contributing to the conservation of barn owls by installing nest boxes.

Knowing where barn owls are living is of great interest to researchers. If you see a barn owl in Delaware let Jean Woods know so she can add this data to Delaware’s Breeding Bird Atlas. Woods is the curator of birds for the Delaware Museum of Natural History. Contact her at 658-9111, ext. 314 or via email at jwoods@delmnh.org.