I enjoyed reading the article in the Timaru Herald recently about Alister Thornley, president of the Friends of the Timaru Botanic Gardens group and his Owl House.
While out walking the Thornley’s had noticed several Little Brown Owls sitting atop the gravestones in our cemetery. With the removal of the stand of pine trees near the edge of Salt Water Creek in preparation for replacement native planting it is possible that they’ve lost their nesting sites. A long-time fan of owls Alister turned his mind to finding a housing solution.
What is needed for an Owl House? Owls are cavity nesters so as a trial Alister designed an enclosed water tight nesting box made from treated plywood topped with a tiled roof. A cosy room with a view, a small branch outside for any fledglings to sit on, securely attached and out of harm’s way. It has since been placed in a suitable spot and if successful more will be dotted about the tall trees in the gardens to provide an alternate home for our owl population. They prefer farmland and urban areas to forested areas, they hunt at dawn and dusk often feeding on the ground where they walk and run freely so a stand of trees that borders an open area is perfect.
Between 1906 and 1910 a total of 219 Little Brown Owls were imported and released by the Otago Acclimatisation Society into New Zealand. The finches and sparrows which had been introduced earlier had flourished and were causing havoc with fruit and grain crops. The intension of introducing the owls was that they would limit these troublesome populations.
A few subsequent releases into Canterbury after the initial imports have ensured there is a fairly wide distribution throughout the drier eastern and coastal regions. Only found in The South Island, sometimes as far north as Nelson, they are rare on the West Coast.
We share our city with the wild creatures,we plant trees to encourage native birds to visit our gardens and feel privileged when they do. We enjoy the sight of dolphins in Caroline Bay, penguins living in our rocks and seals resting and sunning on our shores. Let’s hope the house built for Little Brown Owls proves appealing and our population of these endearing birds increases.
Many families love living in Timaru, it’s a pleasing corner of the world to be in but it’s always good to be reminded that not all the families that share our community are human.