Question: What is Eco Agriculture?
Answer: Eco Agriculture defines a holistic approach to farming without contamination of the environment.
One example of this approach is the use of birds in the service of man to control the population of pests, such as flies and rodents, in farm fields. The current page introduces an example of using birds for environmentally friendly agriculture.
Kestrels and Owls in the Battle Against Pests
With the trend of moving to Eco Agriculture, men realized that birds of prey can be harnessed to serve as non-toxic alternatives in the battle against pests and other harmful elements in the field of agriculture. In the picture below you can see a kestrel standing on its man made house in a farm field in the Ella Valley close to Jerusalem.
The kestrel belongs to the falcon family. It feeds mainly on mouse-sized mammals. Rodents serve as its main diet. Sizable insects such as beetles and winged termites will be consumed with delight too. On rare occasions when food is scarce, small passerines will compensate its needs.
The Kestrel, like other birds of prey, has keen vision. It stands on a high post, on the top of a tree or flies above a field, searching for the slightest movement of a potential prey. Once the prey is spotted, there is only a slim chance of it missing the target.
A research project that was conducted in the Tel-Aviv University and in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, led to the decision to use both kestrels and barn owls as biological tools against pests and rodents that are harmful for agriculture. One of the research objectives was to verify that the diet of these birds consists of pests that are destructive to agriculture rather than of living things that are needed in agriculture.
A joint venture led by the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration at Latrun, Tel Aviv University, the Israel Ornithology Center, Israel Society for the Protection of Nature, the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Environmental Protection – resulted in the formation of the barn owl and kestrel project. Together with the Bird Box Project, led by the Haifa University, results were bound to come.
Man made boxes were built and placed in various locations in agricultural fields across the country. Both the kestrels and the barn owl eventually, sometimes with human help, adapted themselves to the new housing. Pesticides were band. The barn owls and the kestrels multiplied and delivered the expected results. The fields were nearly cleared from rodents and other pests.
The video below contains selected segments from a recording of a barn owl family, captured by an online camera placed in a man-made nest box that was occupied by the barn owls. This is one of many man made nest boxes that were placed in various agricultural farms across the country.
Selected segments from an online recording of a family of barn owls. Video courtesy of Professor Yossi Leshem, from ‘Buma the Barn Owl, The Farmer’s Friend’
The success of the barn owl project together with the fact that birds, in the search for food, know no artificial boundaries, have triggered the authorities to initiate cooperation on this issue with the Jordanian farmers across the border for the benefit of both sides. Indeed this cooperation turned out to be a great success and has opened a door for other avenues of collaboration.
The video below contains selected segments of a larger video that was produced by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). The video gives a touch of how man can harness nature and utilize it also for collaboration of knowledge and international cooperation.
Selected segments of video produced by SPNI about use of kestrels and barn owls in agriculture
The link for the full video is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJDVohcnfHQ