Birds of Prey: IDF Soldiers Paint Homes for Barn Owls and Kestrels

This Earth Day, people from all over the world are taking big steps toward protecting and preserving the environment.

Guess who else is taking big steps? The IDF, of course.

Last week, IDF soldiers led by Warrant Officer (WO) Amir Ezer, volunteered at an agricultural farm in Moshav Ram-On near Afula. They painted munitions boxes and converted them into homes for predatory birds in the region, such as barn owls and kestrels. Dr. Motti Charter, an ornithologist from the University of Haifa Society for the Protection of Nature, accompanied the IDF soldiers.

Moshav Ram-On

Moshav Ram-On near Afula. Credit: Zev Marmorstein

Fun Fact #1: A great team: Barn owls are nighttime feeders, and kestrels are daytime feeders.

Dr. Charter and WO Ezer founded this project together five years ago in cooperation with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Tel Aviv University, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry for Regional Development, and the Hoopoe Foundation. Dr. Charter reached out to Israeli Military Industries (IMI) and agreed to recycle old munitions boxes and use them as nesting homes for barn owls and kestrels in Israel.

Munitions Boxes

Dr. Motti Charter grabs munitions boxes for painting. Credit: Zev Marmorstein

Fun Fact #2: Ornithologists attach rings to the predatory birds in order to identify their point of origin. During migration season, ornithologists can connect to the birds through the rings and learn the birds’ location and condition.

Dr. Chater, why is it important to provide homes for these predatory birds?
“Many agricultural farms use rodenticides to kill off pests, house mice, jirds and social voles. These rodenticides are harmful to our health since they are sprayed on the food we eat. That’s where barn owls and kestrels come in. They eat rodents, eliminating the need to spray toxic chemicals on crops. With the help of WO Ezer and his soldiers, I have provided a home for these predatory birds, giving them a base to breed and feed.”

Barn Owl Munitions Box

Barn owls stand guard duty in their new home. Credit: Warrant Officer Amir Ezer

Fun fact #3: Barn owls and kestrels do not build their own nesting homes and therefore need someone else to build a home for them- a task undertaken by WO Ezer and his soldiers.

WO Ezer and his soldiers are from the Ordnance Department in the Israeli Navy where they are responsible for maintaining the big weaponry aboard the navy’s fleet. This is the fifth time WO Ezer and his soldiers have taken time off their busy schedules to contribute to the environment and the birds’ well-being.

Soldiers Painting Munitions Boxes

Soldiers from the Israeli Navy's Ordnance Department paint the munitions boxes. Credit: Warrant Officer Amir Ezer

Dr. Charter, how much do the rodenticides really harm us? 
“Well, just think about it, rodents are mammals just like humans and these rodenticides are used to kill rodents. The dangerous chemical also has the potential to seep into our water systems and contaminate our daily source of intake.”

Dr. Charter, what is the hardest part of running this project?
“Patience – once the homes for the predatory birds are set up, it takes time for them to start breeding and begin feeding.”

Fun fact #4: The first munitions box in which barn owls bred was painted by WO Ezer and his soldiers.

Since 2002, WO Ezer’s hobby has been to climb trees and perch converted homes for predatory birds. He is an inspiration to the soldiers under his command who have joined him in this innovative and resourceful work, transforming munitions boxes into instruments for protection of the environment.

munitions boxes painted

Warrant Officer Amir Ezer (second from right) stands with his soldiers and Dr. Motti Charter after finishing the job. Credit: Zev Marmorstein

Fun fact #5: The Beit Shean Valley in Israel holds the densest population of barn owls in the world. Per 100km² 250 pairs of barn owls reside.

Thanks to their work together, Dr. Charter and WO Ezer have distributed 2,500 nesting boxes throughout at least 350 agricultural farms in Israel. These munitions boxes have become the homes to many predatory birds that protect us from harmful chemicals and preserve the natural environment.

Barn Owl Family

Barn owls hang out in their new home thanks to the efforts from our IDF soldiers. Credit: Warrant Officer Amir Ezer

See other stories on how the IDF works to better the lives of birds.