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

The project started in 2015 and is running throughout 2018. The project includes exchange visits between Cyprus and Israel to help the transfer of know-how and experience as Israel has been working with farmers and Barn Owls for decades. 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.

In Cyprus, thanks to the project, nest boxes for Barn Owls and for Kestrels are being installed in specific areas in collaboration with farmers. Relevant workshops also take place to provide information to farmers as well as relevant authorities.

Another important element of the project is to carry out some research work to study other aspects of the Barn Owl’s biology and their impact on rodents.

The aim of the project is to find a long term solution, to reduce use of poisons while at the same time reduce damage from rodents in agriculture.

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.

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.


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