Owls are are important and productive members of the vineyard, specifically Tyto Alba, commonly known as the barn owl.  Vineyards attract a high number of rodents, particularly pocket gophers that damage soil structure and irrigation systems. They can also weaken vines by chewing on roots, and can even destroy young vines.  Barn owls are natural rodent control.  They eat 1/3 of their body weight in rodents per day, and during mating season, the male barn owl will bring back rodents to their nest to impress the female to prove that they can provide enough food for a clutch.

The thing is that barn owls don’t really make their own nests.  Instead they nest in hollows or holes in trees.  Owl boxes are a great way to attract the birds to an area like a vineyard where there is an ample food source.

We’ve got several on the vineyard property and will likely add more.  The trouble is that you’ve got to clean them out each season usually between Oct and Nov. when owls are least likely to be present.  Our hadn’t been cleaned in years until this November when Ken and I headed out into the fields with a ladder and a hand spade to give it a go.

The first thing to realize is that the owl boxes are a good 15-18 feet off the ground in order to keep the owls safe from other predators.  The ladder propped up against one isn’t to terribly stable.  Once a at the top, we had to unlatch the door, but weather and age had caused the latch to get stuck. After messing with it for a bit we got the door open and were able to scrape out years of debris in order to make the boxes ready for some new mating pairs in the spring.