Nest boxes erected on Kangaroo Island as native predator swoops in to replace feral cats

News article |

As feral cats continue to be eradicated from the Dudley Peninsula, a series of specially designed nest boxes are being erected to encourage barn owls to take their place and prey on introduced mice and rats.

Nest boxes erected on Kangaroo Island as native predator swoops in to replace feral cats

A series of specially designed barn owl nest boxes are being erected on Kangaroo Island to help the native predator replace the work of feral cats.

As the Kangaroo Island Landscape Board (KILB) continues to eradicate feral cats from the Dudley Peninsula, barn owls are being encouraged to take their place and prey on introduced mice and rats.

Twelve nest boxes are being installed across the Dudley Peninsula in the hope barn owls will take up residence and thrive, reducing mice and rat numbers in the process.

The nest boxes were built by the Kingscote Men’s Shed with funding from a Kangaroo Island Grassroots Grant, following an idea from local landholder Peter Atkinson, who was inspired by the Marna Banggara project on Yorke Peninsula.

KILB Feral Cat Eradication Field Officer Emily Reynolds said barn owls can be seen as a replacement and possibly more productive predator for mice on farmland, in the absence of feral cats.

“I recently undertook a secondment over on the Yorke Peninsula with the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board, working on the Marna Banggara rewilding project,” Ms Reynolds said.

“As part of the project, barn owl nest boxes are being deployed as feral cats and foxes are removed. The data gathered showed the owls were capable of bringing back over 25 mice to one box each night. Encouraging owls to take up residence on properties out on the Dudley could be of great benefit to landholders.”

Atkinson Livestock owns and operates Wallaby Run on the Dudley Peninsula and is a dedicated supporter of the KILB’s feral cat eradication project. Owner Peter Atkinson said the diseases carried by feral cats are costing him over $50,000 a year in lamb losses and meat condemned by abattoirs.

“Apply this to all the sheep enterprises on Kangaroo Island and there is a lot of money being lost due to feral cats,” he said. “Feral cat eradication is the only permanent way to remove these diseases”.

Mr Atkinson was recently awarded a Grassroots Grant from the KILB to help purchase and distribute barn owl nest boxes on the Dudley Peninsula.

“By providing barn owls with nest boxes out on the Dudley, we could encourage their presence in our feral cat eradication area and provide them with greater breeding opportunities in areas where hollow-bearing trees are quite scarce”.

Ms Reynolds said an exciting part of the project will be the use of solar-powered, 4G-connected cameras at each nest box to record the barn owls activities and breeding success.

“Images from the cameras are connected to an artificial intelligence system that sorts them ready for the team to view each morning,” she said. “We’ve also provided a perch on the front of the nest box which is a perfect stage for fledgings to gather and practice their flying techniques, and for us to photograph them.”

If any Dudley landholders are interested in having a barn owl nest box on their property or would like more information, please contact Emily Reynolds (emily.reynolds@sa.gov.au, 0459 952 830) or Nathan Lennane (nathan.lennane@sa.gov.au, 0419 428 775) at the KILB.

Click below to watch a three minute video about the nest box installations.

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