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ESD EXTRA: Barn Owl Owlets Renested Around San José
San Jose Environmental Services Department’s (ESD’s) barn owl nest boxes have four renested barn owl owlets until the little ones fledge the nest at about ten weeks of age. Prior to renesting, the owlets were brought to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, where volunteer, Valeria Baldwin, handled the young owls and nurtured them until they were about six to eight weeks old. Once rehabilitated, Santa Clara Valley Audubon volunteer, Lee Pauser, took over and helped identify boxes located at City parks that would best serve as a new home for the owlets. The babies were renested with adult barn owls that have their own young of a similar age.
ESD has 20 nesting boxes spread throughout parks and open spaces that are monitored throughout the year to track how many owls successfully fledge from each nest. In fiscal year 2018-19, 55 barn owls successfully fledged from these nest boxes. The Barn Owl Nest Box Program is an Integrated Pest Management technique ESD initiated in 2010 to help with stormwater pollution prevention. Barn owls function as a natural alternative to rodenticides as their diet primarily consists of moles, voles, and pocket gophers. Rodenticides can be carried by rainwater or irrigation runoff into storm drains, creeks, and into the Bay impacting water quality and aquatic species.
“The Barn Owl Nest Box Program not only helps us reduce urban pollution runoff from entering our storm drain system but, it also provides a great opportunity to educate the public on stormwater pollution prevention methods,” shared Shayan Serajeddini, an associate environmental services specialist with the Watershed Protection team. “Every year we work with local high school and college biology classes, train them on our monitoring protocol, and then in return, students help us monitor multiple nest boxes throughout the school year. I enjoy seeing how excited our student volunteers get doing this work, and I hope it inspires them to be -environmental stewards. It is also a great conversation starter, and I truly enjoy the questions I receive from the public when I’m out monitoring. People are so curious about what we’re doing and often offer to volunteer themselves.”
Residents can also use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques at their homes. IPM techniques often fall into the following fields of control.
- Cultural Management Practices - reduce pest establishment, reproduction, and survival. For persistent weed problems in your lawn, regularly mow but at a higher setting of 4 inches. This allows for a stronger root system that helps ward off disease and also prevents weeds from growing.
- Physical and Mechanical Controls - block pests out or make the environment unsuitable for them. Physical controls include using mulch for weed management, screens to keep birds or insects from entering your garden, and caulking holes in walls to keep mice away. Traps are mechanical tools often used around the home.
- Biological Controls - use of natural enemies to ward off pests. Weeds and pests all have natural enemies that can be used to control their populations in your yard or around the home. If you have an issue with aphids in your garden, try ladybugs.
- Chemical Controls - When none of the above has worked, and the pest becomes intolerable, use the least toxic chemicals available.