University of Florida

Barn Owl Research

WANTED... ALIVE! Natural Born Killer

The Barn Owl (aka Tyto alba), a skilled rodent predator, is wanted for providing sustainable control of rats and mice in south Florida's Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).  Rodents are responsible for millions of dollars in damage to crops and farm equipment each year.  Over the past decade, members of the EAA community have installed barn owl boxes throughout Palm Beach County to increase the abundance of these owls.  It is hoped that they will impact the regional rodent population and reduce the need for chemical rodenticides.  All boxes are used by owls for either nesting or roosting, and research is currently underway at the EREC to determine if this artificially inflated population is capable of reducing rodent abundance.

Barn Owls also provide a unique opportunity for local students to learn about the ecology of the EAA in a hands-on manner.  The owls typically devour their prey whole, and later regurgitate the indigestible fur and bones in the form of a pellet.  In educational programs conducted by EREC personnel, students dissect these pellets and exam their contents to determine what the owls have been eating.  Students also have built many of the barn owl nest boxes, and thus have gained an appreciation for ecologically friendly agricultural practices.

barn owl
  Photo by Brian Mealey