The Hungry Owl Project

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Barn Owl #2
Barn Owl #2 (Photo credit: andrew dowsett)

I have to preface this post by stating that we live on the edge of our city, on the border where the houses meet the open grasslands and oak forests beyond.  We love living here because of the views and the wildlife that visit us.  However, we’re not fond of one visitor… the rats.  No matter how many holes we have patched up, they continue to find a way into the walls and attic of our home (though, luckily, not actually inside our living area).  We also contend with gophers, deer mice, and voles.

Which brings me to… owls.  I hear the great horned owls who-who-ing in the evening, night, and morning, and occasionally we’ll see one, right before dark.  But what I’m interested in is the barn owl.  I want to have a barn owl family patrolling the area around our home.  I read in this article from SF Gate, “Barn owls all too happy to be your rat catchers / Birds a natural and chemical-free way to control pests”, that family of five barn owls can “can account for 3,000 rodents in one breeding season.”  I really, really want a barn owl family living nearby!  I’ve seen and heard them in the woods behind our neighborhood before, so I know this is a possibility.

Now that I’ve begun to do a bit of research on the subject of using owls to control pest, I’ve found that this isn’t so crazy.  Check out what this group of birders in nearby Berkeley is doing… Keep Barn Owls in Berkeley!  This group is associated with this larger project founded in Marin… The Hungry Owl Project, which has the following mission:

“Our mission is to reduce the need for pesticides & rodenticides by
encouraging natural predators through conservation of habitat,
nest boxes, and education.”
Perfect!  I’ve found at least one source for nearby help! Owl boxes can be purchased through their webpage,  They also sell instructions for those who may wish to build an owl box themselves.  The website provides alternative places to purchase a box.  For us, that would be East Bay Nature in Walnut Creek.
But before I proceed with anything, I have more research to do.  I live in a townhome development, so it may be difficult  to find a place where it’s OK to install a box.  Are there enough barn owls out there, so that one will find the box if I were to put one up?  If so, where is the best place to install a box?  Also, I’ve read the babies can be a bit, well, noise, screeching through the night. Is this a barrier?  Maybe.
I’ll keep you all updated as I learn more!


    1. I actually think those pellets are pretty cool. We used to find them a lot in the woods behind our development. My son took a class last year at a nature center where the kids got to dissect owl pellets. Lots of little mouse bones! The kids were fascinated!


  1. I definitely hope you’ll keep us informed on this! Even though we aren’t quite as close to open land as you appear to be, we definitely adjoin a very large green belt of a private Country Club and golf course. The area is well-known as an “unofficial” animal habitat. We have lot of unusual animal sightings. Years ago our next door neighbor had an owl family in one of their redwoods. I have always wondered if we would have the same experience again, but it never occurred to me to research how we might attract them. I’ll eagerly follow what information you uncover. Debra


  2. Barn owls are so beautiful! We had wood rats in our attic in Redwood City – it’s hard to get away from that when you live so close to nature in the Bay Area. The nest box would have to be high up in a tree. You can see barn owls nesting in a barn at Elkhorn Slough (ask at the Visitor Center). An excellent website that shows live cam views of barn owls and their babies in Southern California is at: The owls aren’t nesting right now, but check the archives for past videos. The owls might be a little screechy at night – a problem if neighbors are very close.


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