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Cotati Heart & Soul - Deborah Taylor-French - March 2017


Cotati Heart & Soul - March 2017

by Deborah Taylor-French

"Their flight is silent. Barn Owls hunt by night using their hearing not their eyesight." — John Schuster

What do Barn Owls have to do with gardening? 

This month I am focusing on an interview with John Schuster, the owner of Wild Wing Company, Cotati. Schuster explained to me the link between native predatory birds and successfully raising grapes, food crops, horses and dairy cows. We met at Redwood Café for morning coffee. His warm smile, enthusiasm and knowledge about native birds made him seem like an old friend. Schuster radiates curiosity. His self-assured good nature and passionate musician vibe draws people to him. Schuster is tall and loves to talk. We could have chatted all day about birds, music and his travels. Plus Schuster had wonderful things to say about Press Democrat journalist, Nick Walden who wrote Owl Boxes Help Get Rid of Rodents: John Schuster Finds Thriving Business in Installation of Homes or Barn Owls, August 25, 2013. 

“A California Department of Fish and Wildlife friend, Sandy Etchell, introduced me to Bluebirds. Then Tom Hoffman and Steve Simmons talked to me about Barn Owls. I became enthralled so I did some research.” Schuster added, “I have been actively involved in cavity nesting bird conservation since 1995. In 2000, I came up with the name, Wild Wing Company. Birds keep me good company.” 

Schuster is a lifetime member of the North American Bluebird Society, is on the board of directors. A contributor to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY and a member of Sonoma County Grape Grower Association. He been on Henry's Garden, KRON TV in San Francisco, CA, and is a regular guest on Bob Tanem in the Garden, KSFO 560 in San Francisco, CA and speaker at Santa Rosa Junior College.” 

“From rodents to ground and flying insect control, Wild Wing Company offers a wide variety of cavity-nesting boxes for Barn Owls, Screech Owls, American Kestrels, Bluebirds, Violet-green Swallows and Tree Swallows.” All their products are made in America. Schuster gives talks on the benefits of providing safe nesting sites for beneficial native cavity nesters. After giving talks for Sonoma County Regional Parks, the agency hired Schuster to build and locate Barn Owl boxes in Ragle Ranch Park. Schuster has witnessed the benefit that cavity-nesting birds have on reducing pests in many vineyards, wineries, ranches, parks and industrial operations. 

What Barn Owl and Bluebird boxes can do for your garden. 

We had moles years ago and trapped them. Recently, our backyard suffered from a resident gopher. For years, that petty tyrant gopher turned our garden into his version of the Los Angeles 405. After paying a professional pest remover to set traps, a month went by. Now we are gopher free, but for how long? 

John Schuster offered insight on how to properly install Barn Owl nest boxes, not too high or low. Also to position the box opening so the birds can find it in the dark. Did you know moonlight matters? Owls can see well in the dark. Nest boxes come with built-in sun shields to protect the young from overheating. Baffles or devices must be attached to foil predators such as cats, skunks, opossums, raccoons and foxes from gaining entry. 

Never poison rats, gophers, voles or mice because birds eat them and die.

“The important thing that I’m doing away with is the poison paradigm.” Schuster explained this method is about using a predator to attack prey. “Adult Barn Owls eat rodents like Rat, Pocket Gopher, Mole, Mice and Voles. Barn Owls evolved to kill, and consume the aforementioned prey, so they will not attack cats, dogs, or jackrabbits to name a few.  Barn Owls lack teeth, so they swallow their prey whole. Once prey is digested, the indigestible bones and fur are regurgitated as a pellet.”

If you would like to add Barn Owls, Bluebirds or other nest box birds to your location, contact John Schuster. He has installed Barn Owl boxes in Nice, France, in England, on the Eastern and Western seaboard of the USA. Schuster has followers of his program in Sri Lanka and has future plans of working with farmers in the Punjab region of India. Contact Wild Wing Company or John Schuster in following ways: phone (707) 795-4440, mobile (707) 327-8505 fax: (707) 795-4560 or email

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