Pesticide Effects on Beneficial Insects

UCCE Sonoma County

Cavity Nesting Birds

Healthy populations of cavity nesting birds provide significant benefits to farms and ranches. Understanding the roles played by the various species of birds, and their relationships to the habitat, is important for landowners who seek a better understanding of the ecological functioning of their land.

Pest control is one of the biggest benefits that cavity-nesting birds bring to farms and ranches. Sonoma County Winegrape Commission encourages growers to use integrated pest management practices so that pesticides are only applied when pests pose economic risk, and to choose materials that are effective, yet have low environmental impacts. (Sonoma County Grape Grower’s Values Statement) Birds help provide biological control as a component in an integrated pest management farming system.

By encouraging specific species of cavity nesting birds on their property, landowners can promote alternative means of pest control. For example, some cavity nesters such as the barn owl consume rodents as a large portion of their diet. A breeding pair of owls can consume at least two rodents every night, and when their young have hatched this number can increase significantly. Not surprisingly, this type of consumption can result in a decrease in rodent activity and control costs and an increase in farm productivity.

Some species of cavity nesting birds, such as the kestrel, provide indirect pest control benefits simply through their presence in an area. The kestrel preys on a variety of smaller birds, who may be considered pests by some landowners because of the damage they do to crops. These pest species will avoid areas frequented by kestrels and thus provide the landowner with a low cost method of pest control. The benefits of kestrel presence are increased when considering that the remainder of its diet consists of rodents and insects.

See also: The Hungry Owl Project and Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue Barn Owl Maintenance Program

Ecological Roles of Cavity Nesting Birds
General Guidelines for Nest Box Projects
Generic Nest Box Plans and Building Guide
Sonoma County Nest Box Dimensions Chart
Sources for More Information on Cavity Nesting Birds