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YOUR conservation - OUR FOCUS

Owls often go unnoticed because they are nocturnal, well-camouflaged, and tend to roost in areas where they are difficult to spot. Owls are important predators in the ecology and assist in the biological control of insect and rodent numbers, which reduce risks and costs associated with pesticides.

SA Hunter’s Projek Grootoog builds and erects owl boxes in appropriate locations in support of owl conservation. This initiative contributes to awareness about the beneficial role of owls in our communities, protects, maps, and monitors owl breeding sites, and assists with rehabilitation and release of injured and ill owls.

Purpose

The purpose of phase 1 of the project is to consistently map used owl roosting areas as well as natural and artificial nesting sites throughout South Africa to determine which areas and nesting types are associated with breeding success. Results will be used to better inform the type and placement of owl boxes, as well as making management recommendations for improved breeding success.

In phase 2, we will analyse owl pellets at roost and nesting sites to get a better understanding of predator/prey relationships, prey populations of owls and changes in feeding behaviour throughout the year. Phase 2 will only be launched once phase 1 is rolled out effectively and funding has been secured for the data analysis.

Goals and Objectives

  • To map the density and distribution of consistently used roosting and nesting sites for the different owl species in South Africa in natural and modified landscapes to determine areas in need of conservation intervention
  • Improve our understanding of factors that can influence breeding success in different types of nests, locations, natural and artificial landscapes
  • Improve our understanding of predator-prey relationships and the role of owls as natural biological control agents
  • Inform conservation action where appropriate
  • Raise awareness on owl conservation
  • Improve the level of conservation contributions of members of the public in relation to owls, their biology and role in ecosystems functioning

Background

There are 12 species of owls in South Africa (Steyn, 1994), with several of these owl species predating on rodents and other small animals and can contribute a valuable ecological service with the ecological control of these groups. Although not all owl species have a threatened status, they are increasingly threatened as a result of habitat destruction or transformation, mismanagement of habitats, vehicle collisions and the use of poisons for pest control by farmers or in residential areas. It is becoming increasingly important to raise awareness on their positive contribution to ecosystem functioning, activities that may potentially impact negatively on their survival and their use as a biological control agent.

The most well-known owl, the western barn owl (Tyto alba), often lives in close association with humans, and is often found nesting or roosting in buildings, or trees near buildings. Occasionally we find the spotted eagle-owl (Bubo africanus) roosting in gardens around houses or buildings. These owls are nocturnal, hunting at night, and can easily switch between prey species and are very opportunistic in their feeding preferences. It is reported that barn owls catch between three and four rodents a night, and if they have chicks, a female and 4 chicks can consume up to 1700 small mammals by the time the chicks leave the nest. Barn owls have the ability to adjust their breeding, based on the number of prey available at the time, but mainly have eggs and chicks between February and May. On occasion, they have been reported to have more frequent successful breeding events throughout the year if there is a sufficient amount of prey available, raising up to 10 chicks in ideal conditions. 

Owls usually swallow their prey whole or in large chunks. In the stomach, the indigestible bones, fur and insect exoskeletons are formed into oval-shaped masses, called pellets. These pellets cannot pass through the digestive tract and are instead passed back up through the mouth (regurgitated) when the birds roosts during the day. These pellets provide a lot of information on owl diet (Payne, 1971). The fragments of prey are identified from the bone, feathers, wings or exoskeleton of insects and fur in pellets (Avery et.al.2002). Such studies provide information about changes in feeding habits that occur from one season to the next, as well as some of the species of small animals that live in an owl’s habitat (Government of Alberta, 2009). The general size, shape and appearance of pellets are also a diagnostic feature in identifying different species of owls (Ansara, 2008). In South Africa, studies have been conducted on owl diet (Avery et. al. 2002; Baxter and Matshili 2003; Dean, 1973) especially the barn owl’s diet. These studies have primarily focused on the natural diversity of species in study areas.

How to Participate

Any member of the Association or the public can participate in this conservation initiative at no cost. It is especially suitable for people who already have owls in their area and breeding sites are known, irrespective if they are natural or artificial such as roofs or owl boxes; for schools who can initiate a project as part of their curriculum; factories and farms where there are rodent problems and putting up of owl boxes and introducing owls can acts as a biological control mechanism.

What can be expected

  • The initiative will be explained to you once you contact us to participate
  • If there is an initiative in your area, you will be registered as a participant for the project.
  • They will provide you with a manual for the project.
  • You can order or build an owl box – specifications can be provided, or you can just register your existing owl box.
  • All nesting sites and boxes that you commit to monitor, will be registered.
  • For SA Hunters’ members, you will be able to use the SA Hunters APP, for non-members, the data forms and recording procedure will be provided.
Enquiries / Navrae:

Conservation in Action

Julie 2023
Goeie rehabilitasiesentrums het hulp nodig. Springbok-tak help met graan, voer en ondersteuning as deel van ons Staanvas Program. Jy weet….”staanvas, moenie moed opgee nie, ons sal help!” Judy  van die South African Wildlife Rehabilitation Center versorg en rehabiliteer uile wat ons inbring wat beseer is en dan laat ons hulle weer vry. So ons help graag waar ons kan om die rehabilitasiesentrum te help om diere te red. Laat weet as jy ook wil help, Springbok-tak sal jou sê hoe.

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Julie 2023
Impala-tak vorder goed met Projek Grootoog. Lede van die publiek is opgewonde om deel te word en uilkaste te plaas waar hul gereeld uile sien en om dan die aktiwiteite van die uile te moniteer. Dertig bestellings vir kaste is ontvang en die eerstes is vandag afgelaai. Dankie William Chandler vir die maak van die kaste. Lede van die publiek wat wil deelword kan vir Lionel by lionel@witklip.co.za of Oppies by support@irenefarmvillages.co.za kontak vir meer inligting.

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March 2023
Impala Branch hosted a golf day to raise funds for their initiatives, including for their initiatives to conserve owls. They have several boxes installed that they are monitoring.

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Bewaar Ons Uile
Springbok-tak - Gemeenskap Bewaar Uile
Springbok-tak - Bewaring rondom die N17

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