Barn Owls, Boxes, and Biodiversity: Keeping Rodents in Check
Watch the latest video in the Wild Farm Alliance’s series about supporting beneficial birds on the farm. Ivo Jeramaz of Grgich Hills Estate Winery understands the crucial role biodiversity plays in growing wine grapes. For him it is all about the balance.
Rather than eradicate all pests, he seeks to keep them in check with the use of Barn Owl and songbird boxes. He also keeps the ground covered in between vine rows, mowing cover crops rather than tilling, leaving roots other than vines for pest voles to eat. These practices fill the farm with an orchestra of sounds from birds, bees, and other wildlife.
Dr. Matt Johnson of Humboldt State University has been studying Barn Owls for years. His work is helping farmers understand what kind of boxes they prefer, how natural areas influence nest box occupancy, and how they eat large numbers of rodents.
He also promotes the idea of reciprocity between birds and farmers. When farmers put up nest boxes, they are doing something really great for the birds. In return, the birds do important pest control work for the farmers. Matt sees this exchange and appreciation as a way to address a fundamental question in ecology – what is our relationship with nature and how do we create more of these win-win moments.
You can watch our other videos and learn more on WFA’s Beneficial Birds Multimedia Story Platform.
Jo Ann Baumgartner is executive director of Wild Farm Alliance. She is the co-author of Supporting Beneficial Birds and Managing Pest Birds and of Biodiversity Conservation: An Organic Farmer’s and Certifier’s Guide. Jo Ann co-edited, with Dan Imhoff, Farming and the Fate of Wild Nature: Essays in Conservation-Based Agriculture. Before joining WFA in 2001, she worked for other sustainable agricultural nonprofits, was senior researcher for a book of California’s rare wildlife species, and was an organic farmer for over a decade. She has a keen interest in the conservation of native species for their own sake, and the connections between farms and the larger ecosystem.