Reducing mice by supporting owls on Southern Yorke Peninsula
A research project on Southern Yorke Peninsula is investigating if barn owls could provide an alternative, or additional, method of controlling feral mice.
Supervised by Dr David Taggart and David Peacock, Adelaide University Honours student Kelly Meaney is working to increase the barn owl population in order to reduce mice numbers on Southern Yorke Peninsula.
Ms Meaney said overseas studies have shown that a pair of barn owls can eat more than 3000 mice a year and live at high densities where suitable hollows are available.
“We have installed a number of purpose-built wooden nest boxes on private land across Southern Yorke Peninsula, which we continuously monitor, assessing their effectiveness and fine-tuning for our specific environment and climate,” Ms Meaney said.
“Cameras have been set up at each nest box to monitor colonisation, owl behaviours and prey being taken. Some images have already shown owls returning to the nest box with a mouse at 15-minute intervals each night, which is a great result.
“The addition of a perch to the original design has been a successful modification, enabling clearer images of the owls and their prey.”
Within two months of installation, the colonisation rate was more than 60 per cent and breeding behaviours were observed at all colonised nest boxes.
Natural Resources Northern and Yorke Landscape Ranger Jasmine Swales said by providing owl nest boxes across agricultural land, it is hoped the mouse populations and associated management costs for landholders can be reduced.
“These nest boxes should encourage barn owls to move closer to farmland where mice are abundant,” Ms Swales said.
The research project is closely linked to ‘Rewilding Yorke Peninsula’, which aims to restore natural balances and ecosystem functions across the landscape.
Ms Swales said the research will help to reduce the frequency and intensity of mouse plagues, which is a positive outcome for all stakeholders.
“Ms Meaney’s Honours research concludes in November 2018, following which the results will be available to apply to Rewilding Yorke Peninsula, enabling us to achieve a greater coverage of owl nest boxes on Southern Yorke Peninsula,” Ms Swales said.
For more information about the research project or Rewilding Yorke Peninsula please contact the Yorke Peninsula Sustainable Landscape Team on 8853 3880 or DEWNR.Yorke@sa.gov.au.