The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is a relatively visible owl of the Davis area. It is also the cutest and most charismatic owl that you will see around here. If you are out at night, even downtown, don't be surprised if you see a silent white flash above you or hear a high-pitched screech: it's a Barn Owl.
You may also have noticed the abundance of large wooden boxes in the trees around Davis. The city of Davis has been pretty active in trying to provide adequate artificial nesting cavities for this species. In fact, that's probably why they are so ubiquitous around town.
In 2008, the city began placing new barn owl boxes and replacing old boxes which had fallen into disrepair after the retirement of Terry Schulz (former supervisor of the California Raptor Center) in 1991. One of the goals of the program is to help control the city's growing rodent population by encouraging the presence of the owls whose natural prey are rats and mice. Ideally, this would also lead to a reduction in the use of rodent poisons.1
2007-12-13 20:08:34 Late one night on my balcony, I thought I saw a seagull floating on the breeze toward me. I wondered what a gull would be doing flying solo so late at night. When it neared the balcony it circled and looked down at me...it was a Barn Owl. First time I had seen one and it was beautiful. The breeze kicked up and it floated away over the building. —DukeMcAdow
2008-06-28 00:26:19 I saw them tonight at: parking lot next to Wells Fargo; above Bistro 33; in a tree next to the Davis Food Co-Op. SCREEE! —BillKendrick
2008-07-23 13:06:30 good to know the barn own box program has been reactivated, this was something I was actually going to look into —StevenDaubert
2008-07-23 19:07:24 Where are there more of these boxes? I might wanna go owl watching some night... —SunjeetBaadkar
2009-11-10 16:38:31 how do I get one of these? I have rats and I want them controlled!!!! Plus, owls are adorable. —FloridianPlywood
2010-06-01 22:00:32 There are a pair that live above Bistro 33, and roam above downtown at night. I see them from the patio at Village Pizza & Grill around 9 pm about half the time I'm there. Beautiful!! Just listen for the screech :) —jmofro
1. Golden, Cory. Heart-faced helpers: City hopes barn owls can curb rodent population. The Davis Enterprise. 2008-07-20.