Various owls header
ABSOLUTELY-UNMOVING-OWLS

Here comes a table-based layout!

My name is Dane, I study barn owls.

They're neat, but there are plenty of other cool owls.

Here are some other great owls doing funny things!

Snowy owl with mouth openThree burrowing owls

Research, with floating!

Napa Valley, CA

My research revolves around barn owls in Napa Valley vineyards. My lab and I are trying to determine if the owls can be viable means of rodent pest control. Typical means of treating rodent pests include toxic baits, lethal trapping and discrupting soils. While effective, these methods have come under scrutiny as there is they can have negative environmental impacts and are costly for farmers. Thus, there is a desire for a more sustainable means of pest control.

Barn owl with rodent

Providing nest boxes for barn owls (Tyto alba) is a common practice as they have a high capacity for removing prey items. My project aims to find out what this capacity is. More specifically, I have installed video cameras in nest boxes throughout the valley to try and quantify the rate at which parent owls are delivering rodents to chicks. This will hopefully provide an index of the total amount of rodent pests that barn owls are removing from the landscape.

Here's an awesome video of a prey delivery from one of our cameras!

You can find lots of great images and further information on our Facebook page. There has been a plethora of studies conducted on barn owls. For example, here is a pretty neat group of people working with barn owls in the U.K. For those interested in learning about birds in general, click on the handsome devil below!

Barn owl image

Barn owls as pest control agents have been tried not only in vineyards but in these types of agriculture as well:

Our lab looked at factors affecting nest box occupancy in Napa Valley vineyards and found the following as being the most correlated to high occupancy rates:

  1. Wooden boxes (vs. plastic)
  2. High area of surrounding grassland
  3. Presence of nearby riparian area

Charismatic species are often useful in promoting conservation. Luckily, three of the most charismatic owl species common to North America all have fairly stable populations. Check out the table below to learn more!

Common Name Latin name IUCN Status Appearance
Barn owl Tyto alba Least Concern Barn owl
Great gray owl Strix nebulosa Least Concern Great gray owl
Great horned owl Bubo virginianus Least Concern Great horned owl

For any GIS nerds, the USGS has compiled awesome spatial data to model the distribution for hundreds of species. Here you can download a model of Great gray owl distribution.