Owls not only help winemakers reduce their costs, they make vineyards greener and ecosystems healthier. Scientists studying the impact of these strategies are finding encouraging results.
Researchers at Humboldt University noticed the large number of owl boxes in farm fields throughout California’s wine country, which caught their attention. Hence his interest in investigating whether owl boxes really work and how they benefit farmers. Dozens of international researchers have joined the university researchers to study this phenomenon.
The nesting season for barn owls is four months, during which time the birds spend a third of their time hunting in the fields. A family of owls can eat up to 1,000 rodents during the nesting season and about 3,400 in a year.
Although owl boxes seem like a good tactic to reduce pesticide use, in Napa Valley, there are other practices to create more sustainable farmland. Grape growers are trying to minimize water use and tillage and are planting perennial grasses between rows of grapes, as this can reduce soil erosion and improve nutrient and carbon cycling.
Whether in France with chickens or in Thailand with ducks in rice paddies, many farmers are relying on birds to control pests in a more sustainable way.
In the case of owls, nest boxes are left that will be used by birds of prey to nest and keep their young until they are adults. Biologists carry out follow-up studies so that the birds are in perfect condition and it is a practice that is rapidly spreading.
Do they work? The researchers say that most of the growers participating in the study no longer use rodenticides since they put owl boxes on their properties, however, it is not definitively known if owls are reducing rodenticide use throughout the Valley of Nappa. What a recent study has shown is that of the farmers who grow grapes in the Napa Valley.
The data collected in the research will reveal how these birds, in their role as natural predators of rodents, contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of the Napa Valley wine industry
For a long time the connotation of these birds was fear and today they become an important piece in maintaining an ecosystem. In addition, some wineries have used the owl as their own brand, making the figure of the past more authentic and positive in the present. People have to understand that they are guardians of the ecosystem and their presence helps.