Birds of prey as ambassadors of peace in the Middle East

Barn Owl by Shah Jahan

by Grrlscientist on February 9, 2012 · 1 comment

in Birding News

Barn Owls for Peace

SUMMARY: Documentary of an international collaborative conservation effort that relies on birds, scientists and farmers

Not long ago, I told you that bird-friendly California vineyards may have fewer insect pests, but what about relying on birds to control another common food crop pest; rodents? Food crops and their rodent pests are a common problem everywhere. But when faced with putting out poisons — poisons that not only kill rodents but also harm human health and the land itself — farmers are increasingly looking for other solutions to address these ubiquitous pests. One such solution is birds of prey.

Just one pair of adult barn owls, Tyto alba, will catch between 2,000 to 5,000 rodents each year. If barn owls are living on farmland, their foraging activities may improve agricultural yield among certain crops by 24 percent. Hosting the nest of just one pair of these birds on farmland presents an “instant solution” to “the rodent problem” that does not involve any dangerous chemicals.

This is where birdwatcher and Israeli naval officer, Amir Ezer, comes in: perhaps ironically, he has been reusing ammunition cases to create nesting boxes for barn owls all over Israel. In an interesting video that I’ve embedded below, we learn that 1,640 of these nest boxes have been distributed to farmers throughout Israel, a number that was increased to 2,100 as of 2010, according to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

“[From] the moment the barn owls nested there, the damage stopped”, says biological pesticide project coordinator Shauli Aviel in the film.

“Today we have over 100,00 dunams [1000 m2] of agricultural land where pesticides haven’t been used for 10 years”, Mr Aviel continues in the film.

But barn owls sleep during most of the day, leaving farmland open to attack by daytime pests, so a diurnal raptor was recruited to ensure 24-hour protection from rodents: the common kestrel, Falco tinnunculus. Once again, ammunition case-nestboxes were provided to these small raptors to encourage them to stay on the farmland.

But the effort has not stopped there. This work has led to partnerships with farmers in the Palestinian Authority and in Jordan, too, although it took some work to get things started.

“The strange appearance of the barn owl didn’t help its image within the Arab culture, so it was difficult to persuade Jordanian farmers that the barn owl is beneficial to agriculture”, according to the film’s narrator. But they succeeded, as the film documents.

It is hoped that encouraging birds of prey to hunt and raise their families on agricultural lands will improve farming practices in other countries, too.

“Then you will go to Syria, to Iran, to other countries we cannot go, and you will show them the system.”

This international collaborative project is full of win for just so many reasons. As the film’s narrator enthuses: “In the Middle East, the dove has been replaced by the barn owl and the kestrel as the ambassadors of peace.”

Visit yuvaldax1‘s YouTube channel [video link].

This film won first prize in the expert and instructive films category at the Agrofilm Festival held Nitra, Slovakia.

This award-winning film was produced by Yuval Dax.

NOTE: mirrored from here.

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Top Photo: Barn owl, Tyto alba, photographed at Al Watbah Camel Racetrack, Abu Dhabi, UAE. NOTE: This image has been cropped from the original [view the original uncropped image].
Image: Shah Jahan (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.)

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Birdernaturalist February 15, 2012 at 1:44 am

Great story! I’m reminded of the Christmas tree farmers in Oregon, plagued by small rodents and Aplodontia (Sewellel, Mountain Beaver) – to be solved by merely placing tall perches for raptors in the middle of their fields. Someone should dig up the details of that…


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