Looking Out for Owls

It's International Owl Awareness Day and there's no better time to be aware of how we impact the wild owls around us! There are over 265 owl species in the world who are located on every continent except Antarctica. They live in habitats that vary dramatically, have different nesting needs and diets, and range from the very tiny to the very large. Many are nocturnal and most are elusive. As a result, there's often an owl living in closer proximity to us than we realize!

Despite the countless variations that exist among owls, there are some basic things we can do, and not do, to look out for these incredible birds of prey. So on that note, here are seven tips we created - one for each of the week leading up to August 4th - that can help us all be owl-friendly!

1. Don’t use Rodenticides.

No one wants to share their home with mice and rats, but if you do, you might also share your outside space with owls and other raptors who eat rodents! After all, prey availability may be the single most important factor for owls when choosing a spot to call home, even for a short time. A mouse that has ingested poison is an easy meal for an owl – as the poison takes hold the mouse will slow, seize, and can no longer run and hide from predators. To an owl, this looks like a great opportunity. Unfortunately, once ingested, the owl (and any other predator on small mammals) is subject to secondary poisoning. The most common rodenticides are anticoagulants (such as d-CON), but nerve poisons and kidney poisons are also on the market. These poisons are nasty and dangerous; even if the dose is not immediately lethal, poisoned animals may bleed to dead from just a small injury.

Watching any animal suffer the effects of poisoning is horrific, something never to be forgotten. There are many better ways to deal with rat and mouse problems, as poisons will never fully get rid of them and the dangers to wildlife, pets, and children outweigh any benefits. If rodent control in your home is needed, use old fashioned snap traps or humane traps in protected locations and never, ever use poison! Integrated pest management works to deter pests from your home in safe ways.

Owls themselves are actually extremely effective at rodent control. This is especially true in agricultural areas where Barn Owls have created impressive results feeding on mice. Barn Owls’ are happy to utilize nest boxes and are less territorial than many other owl species. This means you can have a lot of owls in an area of heavy rodent concentration. Many farmers have seen fantastic results and rely on owls for productive crop yields.