Rodent Control in Orchards Using Raptors

Project Overview

FW09-038
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $11,066.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Mike Omeg
Omeg Orchards

Commodities

  • Fruits: apples, pears, general tree fruits

Practices

  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, cultural control, integrated pest management

    Summary:

    This project significantly increased predator habitat by establishing nesting habitat for raising young and perches for hunting rodents. We intend to continue installing several barn owl boxes each year. In addition, we have began installing nest boxes for American Kestrels.

    The following outcomes were observed:

    1) Occupancy in the nesting boxes by barn owls was minimal the first season and slowing increased each season.

    2) The owl nest boxes were not just used by barn owls. Screech owls were common in boxes, but no screech owl nests were observed. American Kestrels used boxes for nesting sites, indicating a lack of suitable nesting sites for kestrels in the area.

    3) Using owl boxes is a long-term investment. The owl population does not establish immediately. Rather the populations build over time.

    4) Perches were used immediately and extensively by raptors. Owls were often observed using the perches at night, and kestrels and hawks during the day.

    5) Rodent activity near perches was reduced immediately.

    6) Since the nest boxes did not have full occupancy immediately, supplemental rodent control management was required. It appears that as owl populations increase, the amount of rodent control management activities, and associated expenses, will also decrease. However, a longer study is required to fully research this relationship.

    7) Outreach and education efforts were very successful. Many presentations were made to local growers. Several local and nationally distributed articles were written about using owls for rodent control.

    Project objectives:

    1 ) Evaluate the effectiveness of Barn Owl boxes and raptor perches as a sustainable method to control rodents in orchard systems.

    2) Compare the cost effectiveness of raptors for rodent control with conventional methods of poison baiting and trapping.

    3) Educate the 400+ orchardists in the Mid-Columbia region on the use of raptors for rodent control, and thereby reduce the amount of poison baits applied in orchards.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.