Putting up owl boxes is great, but it's not enough to just put them up and hope they are used. We think there are important questions that should be asked & answered. Such as:
We started our research in 2003, a great year with more than 150 owl boxes, 2 bat boxes, and 2 American Kestrel boxes going up in and around Marin. We began our research study with the help of Buzz Hull, Research Director of Golden Gate Raptor Observatory (GGRO) and Anne Ardillo, long-time GGRO volunteer, expert bander, and HOP volunteer.
We banded and took measurements and weights of dozens of baby barn owls found in our boxes, noting types of trees and surrounding habitat.
Since 2004, we have continued to check many of our boxes and we are finding a very high occupancy rate. We have also hacked out (to place a bird where it can come and go at will, such as an owl box, but where food is supplied to sustain it until it can hunt on its own) a number of juvenile barn owls that came in to WildCare after falling from their nests, or being forced out by tree cutting. Some of these nests were too inaccesible to feasibly return the owlets, so the owlets were placed in empty owl boxes on the property of dedicated volunteers
We hope that by banding these owlets,we can begin to answer some of the questions outlined above. We would also like to have analysis done on owl pellets found in areas where we suspect rodent poisons are used, and on any owls that are brought to WildCare with suspected secondary poisoing caused by eating poisoned rodents. This testing is very expensive, but we feel it is important to our work. With evidence in hand, we may be able to have a greater influence on property owners and pest control operators who do not believe that their actions are harming birds of prey.
Banding owls is a lot of hard work, but it is very rewarding to find that so many of our boxes are being used. We have taken hundreds of pictures during the banding process and have created a photo gallery showing the banding procedure.