This Owl Species Becomes a Farmer's Hero

  • The owl is a bird that has many myths in various places in Indonesia.
  • Globally, there are 250 species of owls in the world. While in Indonesia, it is estimated that there are 54 types of owls and some of them have endemic status .
  • Farmers in Banyuasin Regency, South Sumatra, are able to reduce the costs of installing mulch fences and are able to secure rice production from rat pest attacks by utilizing the capabilities of Tyto alba.
  • The Tyto alba type, was first described by Giovani Scopoli in 1769. The name "alba" refers to the dominant color of this owl, namely white. In English it is called the Common B arn - owl and in Indonesia it is better known as the Javanese S erak .

In almost many places in Indonesia, each community has its own mythology about owls . This bird has the ability to fly at night without making a sound.

Globally, according to the Owl Research Institute , there are around 250 types of owls spread across all continents, except in Antarctica which is covered in ice sheets. Owls are also known as nocturnal animals or those that often do activities at night. Although there are also several species that are active during the day or diurnal.

Owls belong to the S trigiformes group which is divided into two families, namely Tytonidae and Strigidae. The distinctive difference between Tytonidae is that they have heart-shaped faces while Strigidae have round faces. In general, they are known as carnivorous or meat-eating animals such as frogs, snakes, squirrels, rabbits, mice, groups of birds, and so on.

In Indonesia, there are at least 54 species of owls , some of which are endemic to certain islands, for example Celepuk Siau  [ Otus siaoensis ] which is currently one of the rarest bird species in Indonesia. Meanwhile Celepuk Flores [ Otus alfredi ], Serak Taliabu [ Tyto nigrobrunnea ], and Celepuk Biak [ Otus beccarii ] have  Endangered status based on the IUCN Redlist  status  .

The bird is the hero of the farmers

One type of owl that has been widely used to help farmers is the Tyto alba type, which was first described by Giovani Scopoli in 1769.

The name "alba" refers to this owl's dominant color, which is white. In English, this bird is called the Common B arn - owl or in Indonesia it is better known as the Serak Jawa. In the IUCN red list , this type of owl has Low Risk status.

If these owls are maximized well, they can not only be friends, but can also be farmers' heroes in terms of driving out the rat population which has become a pest and a threat to crop failure. In various regions in Indonesia, T yto alba's services have been used to protect rice fields from massive attacks by rats and insects.

The Ministry of Agriculture has even made owls one of the mainstays in eradicating rat attacks because they are natural predators, rather than using chemicals. The use of owls is considered very effective and environmentally friendly.

Gandi Purnama, Chair of the Cereal OPT [Plant Pest Organism] Control Substance Group, Directorate of Food Crop Protection, explained that rat pests are one of the 6 main pests of rice plants, with the second largest attack area reaching 52 thousand hectares in 2023. This causes the puso area highest, compared to other pests which reach a thousand hectares.

He stated that looking at the trend of rat pests in 2023, early and mid-year attacks occurred evenly in almost all regions of Indonesia. This indicates that rats are very detrimental to farmers. The biggest rat pest attacks in Indonesia are West Java, South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, Central Java and West Sumatra.

"To control rat pests biologically or biologically which exploit natural enemies of owls, the Directorate of Food Crop Protection has a program to assist owl houses and quarantine cages.

Another speaker, Sudirman, a farmer from the Sri Mulyo Farmers Group, Banyuasin Regency, South Sumatra, told of their success in using the T yto alba owl to control rat pest attacks in their area. Previously, to secure their rice fields, various methods were used, starting from installing mulch fences, even electric fences. However, the consequences were very fatal, so it was very ineffective and there were farmers who became victims.

"The existence of T yto alba can reduce the cost of plastic mulch fencing per hectare by IDR 1 million. "The Sri Mulyo farming group has 44 hectares of rice fields, so it can reduce costs and protect production from rat pest attacks," he explained.

The important role of owls

Pramana Yuda, an academic from Atma Jaya University Yogyakarta, in the same webinar explained that ecologically owls have a role as predators and controllers of rat pest populations. Nesting locations are generally in tree holes up to a height of 20 meters, old buildings, caves and well niches.

"Adult owls are capable of preying on 2-3 mice per night," he said.

Quoted from owlpages , T yto alba has a body length of 29-44 cm, wing length of 235-323 mm, tail length of 110-125 mm, and weight of 250-480 grams. Usually, females are heavier than males. The face is white with brown edges and is heart-shaped and the lower body is also predominantly white.

Although generally nocturnal, it is not uncommon for this species to appear at dusk or dawn, and is sometimes seen flying during the day. As for habitat, Serak Jawa can be found in almost all areas, but more often in open forests and grasslands than forested areas.

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