Barn Owl Project

The Barn Owl Tyto alba is an incredible nocturnal bird of prey who with its excellent night vision, amazing hearing and silent flight hunts and eats up to 1000 rodents per year. In 2015, BirdLife Cyprus started a pilot project for using Barn Owls as pest control agents in farming as an alternative to using rodenticides. Rodenticides are used very extensively in Cyprus (300 tons of Bromadiolone (0.25%), a potent 2nd generation anti-coagulant rodenticide, are used annually in the countryside). These are distributed at a subsidized price to local communities who then distribute them to farmers to control rodents that damage trees and crops.

Barn Owl © A. Stoecker

The project was led by BirdLife Cyprus and was implemented together with SPNI (BirdLife in Israel) with funding from the Tasso Leventis Conservation Foundation.

The first phase of the pilot project consisted of a visit in Israel, where BirdLife Cyprus had the opportunity to learn how the project is being implemented. In Israel, the use of poisons has been reduced by 80% since 2006 thanks to the use of Barn Owls and Kestrels as pest control agents. The key success factor in Israel, was finding very committed farmers willing to try the Barn Owl boxes, while not using poisons. This seemed as the best approach for Cyprus too.

The second phase consisted of meetings and talks with interested communities and farmers, on site visits to identify nest box placement locations, followed by nest box building and placement. Talking with the communities and the farmers was very important in order to ensure that rodenticide use should be discontinued following the nest box placement.

Barn Owls mainly hunt within a short 1km radius around their nest, sometimes ranging up to 4.5km away, so it is imperative to make sure that there is no poison use within this radius, otherwise Barn Owls will risk dying from secondary poisoning, which occurs when a Barn Owl (or any other animal) eats prey which has been poisoned itself. The most crucial period is when people stop using rodenticides up until the point when Barn Owls occupy the nest and start ‘working’ the area. During that time it is important for farmers to be patient and accept that the rodents may increase temporarily.

The project was implemented at a small scale and so far Barn Owl nest boxes have been placed in Strakka, Kampi, Tamassos, Troulloi, Atsas and Agros areas, working together with committed farmers who wanted to combat the problem with rodents in a sustainable and nature-friendly manner.

The success of the Israeli project, is really encouraging and inspiring, and BirdLife Cyprus aspires to find funding to continue the project beyond the first pilot year, aiming for a long term solution, to reduce use of poisons while at the same time reduce damage from rodents.

If you are a farmer and are interested in finding out more and becoming involved with the Barn Owl project please contact elena.markitani@birdlifecyprus.org.cy

 

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2340, Nicosia Cyprus
(+357) 22 455 072

 
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