October is National Raptor Month – a time to recognize these amazing birds of prey. A raptor is a meat-eating bird with keen eyesight, eight sharp talons, and a hooked beak. They’ve been around for millions of years, with nearly 500 species across the globe. Most are active during the day, while 178 are night active species.
Raptors include hawks, falcons, and owls – all BIG hunters of rodents. A family of barn owls can consume about 3,000 rodents each year. Barn owls are especially beneficial as they’re night hunters, out when many rats are doing their damage. Rodenticides, poisons that kill rodents, are a major threat to rodent-eating predators. After eating poisoned bait, rats go back to the wild, taking up to a week to die. Any predator that eats the tainted rat may be seriously injured or die; the effect is multiplied when a raptor parent feeds the poisoned animal to its young. Data collected by WildCare, the San Rafael based wildlife rehabilitation and nature education center, indicates that 76% of all animals brought to their wildlife hospital from 2006 to 2017, showed some level of rodenticide in their blood, even animals not suspected of exposure to the poisons. If you want to attract barn owls with a nesting box, don’t do it if you know your neighbors are using rodenticides.