Boise Tech Center Goes to the Birds

Last year at Weyerhaeuser’s Wood Products Technology Center in Boise, Idaho, Great Horned Owls were trying to nest in the facility’s rooftop drains. Purchasing specialist Terry Doty, along with other associates at the site, became concerned.

“The drain goes 100 feet into the building,” he says. “We were worried about it plugging up during a storm. If that drain collapsed, it would be ugly.”

When the owls were out, the group flew into action. They cleaned and screened the drain. They filled a 55-gallon drum with debris, including owl pellets — regurgitated, indigestible bits of the owls’ prey, such as bones, fur, feathers and claws.

“That was a big mess,” Doty adds. “And the birds weren’t happy either.”

Determined to find a solution for both the center and the owls, he looked to the Internet. Before long he had instructions for building nest boxes for birds with five-foot wingspans. He built two of the houses (with two-foot-by-two-foot openings) and attached them under the roof overhang on each end of the building.

This spring there was some evidence the boxes were being used.

“One big clue came in May,” says Doty. “A juvenile owl came through the plant doors and landed in the building.”

A local raptor recovery group was consulted. A responder checked the bird and found no injuries.

“They’re pretty hardy,” reports Doty. “Our big concern was keeping it from being run over by a forklift.”

They decided to get the youngster back into the nest. Held by the responder, the big chick was hissing as Matt Wheeler, the center’s technical director, raised the two on the plant’s manlift. Safely home, the owlet was reunited with a sibling.

“It’s like Wild Kingdom around here,” says Doty, who’s also built boxes for nesting Sparrow Hawks. “Along with our distribution center, we’re on some acreage near the Boise River. Woodpeckers, rattlesnakes, coyotes, we have them all. We felt bad about blocking out the owls last year, but now it’s great they’re back in the neighborhood.”

Article by: Dan Burglund
Photo by Janet Burke

Photo caption: Like many at Weyerhaeuser, the bird was injury-free. It soon was returned to its nest.

Jonathan Rundle
Jonathan Rundle