Tag Archive for: vineyards

Plastic Barn Owl Nest Boxes Versus Wooden: A Clear Choice

The molded plastic heat resistant Barn Owl Box is now being used by thousands of farms and properties.

In 2009, I was a field researcher and animal trainer for the Pittsburgh Zoo. In conjunction with Moraine Preservation Fund, we had erected over 200 wooden nest boxes in PA; however an inspection a few years later revealed many of them were rotting. The immense amount of work seemed wasted and no one had the money to build and erect replacements.

At that time I also spoke to the sustainable director for a large farming concern in Florida that had used barn owl boxes. He informed me they had given up using them since the weather quickly destroyed their plywood boxes. Similar stories came out of California. Few farms were employing large numbers of boxes, though many had a few. It seemed short-lived wooden boxes were deterring barn owl box programs.

So, over a two year period, I designed the plastic box. The product took off rapidly and we began to see large orders from vineyards and orchards. We also receive repeat orders from wildlife departments of various states. My guess had proven true: when farmers and property owners were offered a nest box that would last, they were more inclined to buy and erect them.

My goal of both conserving the barn owl and reducing the use of poisons seemed realized. To date, we have increased the number of nest boxes in the country by many thousands and this has had a positive impact on barn owl populations. Illinois alone has reported a five fold

Plastic nest boxes fledge large numbers of young

increase in their population. The Florida farms that had discontinued using wooden boxes have now installed over 1000 plastic boxes to controthe large numbers of cotton rats in their fields; they report 100% occupancy.

Our own study in Elk Grove California in 2012 attracted 18 breeding pairs that fledged 66 young on a scant 100 acre vineyard in a single season.

Occupation rate was 75%. The density of barn owls on that parcel of land was one of the highest ever reported.  (Browning, et al. 2016 published by 27th Vertebrate Pest Conference, University of CA Davis.)

Wooden boxes are increasingly being taken over by honey bees

Increasingly we have been receiving evidence of another benefit to plastic barn owl boxes. People with both wooden and plastic nest boxes have been noticing that only their wooden boxes have been invaded by honey bees. (And many such hives are Africanized strains of the bee that are highly aggressive and dangerous to humans.)

Our best guess is that the smooth, impregnable plastic surface does not allow the bees to glue their nest to the walls or ceilings. Honey bees will attack the nest, kill the young, and soon make the nest box uninhabitable except for themselves. And Africanized bees are moving northward. In California they have expanded their range since the 1990’s as far north as Napa County. We still urge caution when inspecting our nest boxes, but so far we have no reports of bee occupation.

Today, the choice remains between wood and plastic, and there is some debate over which may have advantages over the other. As someone who has used many of each in the field, I first want to say that both wooden and plastic boxes attract barn owls in high numbers where barn owl populations are good. That said, here are the pros and cons of each:

Pros and Cons between Wooden and Plastic Barn Owl Boxes

The Wooden Box

Advantages:

  • Can be built at home by do-it-yourselfers
  • Initial outlay is lower
  • Just as likely to attract barn owls as plastic

Disadvantages

  • Deteriorate in as little as two years
  • Need repainted periodically
  • If not repainted frequently, the wood surface makes the barn owl box too hot for fledglings
  • Harbor greater loads of parasites
  • Are heavy to install, requiring two people minimum.
  • Need replaced periodically, erasing the initial savings in costs.
  • To save on expense, many wooden boxes are built too small
  • Wooden boxes are frequently occupied by honey bees and these are often Africanized bees which present a danger to humans

The Plastic Barn Owl Nest Box

       Advantages

  • Far outlasts wooden boxes
  • More economical overall
  • Never needs repainted
  • With heat reflective pigments, double box system, and efficient venting, remains cool in full sun
  • Larger size than most wooden boxes (26 x 17 x 17).
  • Achieves high rates of occupancy and fledgling success
  • Can be quickly installed by a single person
  • Evidence indicates that honey bees (including Africanized strains) do not build nests in plastic boxes due to not being able to glue their nests to the smooth plastic

Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with providing wooden boxes for barn owls. They may be particularly useful for do-it-yourselfers and beginners. But for farms and property owners who want to create reliably long-lasting nest box programs that require very little maintenance, plastic next boxes provide a clear choice.

Please go to www.barnowlbox.com for more info.

Why installing Barn Owl Boxes
in the summer makes sense.

We often are asked what the best time of year is for installing nest boxes. Most people believe that springtime is best since it coincides with the breeding season. But barn owls begin choosing mates and potential sites not in spring, but in late winter. December and January mark the beginning of courtship and females are normally positioned inside the nest box by February or early March preparing to lay eggs. So, installing a nest box in spring is often too late.

In addition, the longer a new nest box is visible to local owls, the more accustomed to it they become. So installing earlier can help with the speed of occupation once breeding season begins. Summer also affords better weather for installation, so the upshot is that summer is an excellent time for getting barn owl nest boxes in the field.
Thanks to all of our customers for making our business as successful as it has become. Each time we sell a nest box, it is a win-win for barn owls across the country and for those wanting to enjoy these beautiful rodent hunters.

Christmas Sale on Barn Owl Nest Boxes

Save $40 off of our regular price. No limits on purchases.

 

Take advantage of our deep Xmas discounts for our premier product, the Barn Owl Nest Box Pole Model. This plastic molded nest box is lightweight, long lasting, heat resistant and is by the far the best barn owl box on the market. It is now in use by thousands of vineyards, orchards, state wildlife agencies, and private property owners. Normally $259, it is now deeply discounted for Christmas at $219. Good till December 18th! Go to https://www.barnowlbox.com/shop/boxes/the-pole-model/ to order.

Barn owls consume extraordinary numbers of harmful rodent pests including pocket gophers, voles, mice, and rats and have been shown to significantly reduce pest numbers and damage to crops from pests. See the PBS segment on our research in California here: http://www.americasheartland.org/episodes/episode_714/owls_save_crops.htm

Note the baby barn owls peering out from the entrance.

The Barn Owl Nest Box Pole Model, constructed of rugged molded plastic, features a landing ledge, exterior perch, rain guard, and viewing window in the rear. It incorporates heat reflective pigments in the outer box, combined with highly efficient venting that keeps the nest box near ambient temperature in full sun. The nest box has been used in various research projects around the country and achieves 80 to 100% occupancy in many regions. State biologists in California, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania have been installing them in conservation programs. Vineyards, orchards, row crops, sugar cane and other agriculture use them in sophisticated nest box programs to create dense populations of owls that                        reduce rodent numbers and rodent control costs.

Barn Owl Breeding Season is Coming

Barn owls begin breeding activity as early as January in warmer areas, and as late as early March in others. They are highly skilled at locating cavities suitable for nesting and constantly search for entrances that will accomodate them and their young. The best time to install is anywhere from November to mid-March. We also offer the Barn Owl Box Pole Kit, visible in the photo on the right that allows for easy installation. You can see this product here: https://www.barnowlbox.com/shop/installation/339/

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