Our feathered helpers: Deterring pests naturally with raptors at Eco Terreno

As stewards of our special patch of Sonoma County land, we at Eco Terreno are deeply committed to regenerative farming practices that give more to our environment than take from it. This includes creating a welcoming environment for our local raptors, or birds of prey. 

Raptors prefer the wild

To encourage a wide variety of raptors and other wildlife to call Eco Terreno home, we leave approximately 15 percent of our farm as a wild natural habitat and dedicated riparian area. Unlike our resident bluebirds, who settle into bird boxes in the vineyards each spring during nesting season, our raptor friends—including red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, bald eagles, and barn owls—prefer these more wooded environs. 

Habitat left wild for raptors and other birdlife
We maintain a natural habitat alongside the Russian River for birds and wildlife.

We can’t blame them. Flanking the Russian River, the beautiful, brambly area abounds with trees perfect for nesting; peaceful, untrodden shaded understory; and the lulling hum of seasonal river flow. To further foster a healthy environment for birdlife, we gently maintain the grounds by removing non-native plants and promoting native vegetation. 

Keeping chemicals off the farm

Not surprisingly, we find that with nature working in balance, these birds return the favor by protecting our Alexander Valley vineyards and organic fruit and vegetable farm from pests. 

Hawk soaring over the vineyards at Eco Terreno wine farm
Hawks are common visitors to our farm.

Rather than use chemicals on our farm to stop rodents from nibbling on our grapes, fruits, and vegetables, we rely on our hawks to feed on resident ground squirrels, mice, rats, gophers, and voles. This allows us to keep our rodent population to a minimum without the use of rodenticide, a synthetic chemical harmful to the environment and other local wildlife. 

Barn owls also participate in this symbiotic arrangement, nesting in our five owl boxes or enjoying our riparian area, and hunting at night for mice, voles, gophers, and rats as well as beetles and grasshoppers. 

Even bald eagles find their way to our rustic farm and its natural smorgasbord. 

Letting nature be nature

Like all of our pursuits at Eco Terreno, we find that this “nature knows best” approach provides the most enriching results for the land, the people and animals who benefit from it, and our wines. What could be better than that?

Close up of grapes growing on the vine at Eco Terreno wine farm
Biodynamic and organic farming practices let grapes be their best.

What exactly is a raptor?

To most people the definition of a raptor is a bird of prey, meaning a bird that feeds on animal flesh. Owls, hawks, eagles, vultures are examples of birds that fit this description. But it may not be as simple as that. If you’re interested in an in depth explanation and a possible new definition, check out the article in Audubon, written by Kenn Kaufman: Falcons, Hawks, Owls, Vultures—What Exactly Is a Raptor?

Are raptors beneficial around the home?

Raptors are a huge benefit on a farm like ours and they’re beneficial to residential areas for the same reasons; they deter rodents from making your home their home. With raptors on pest control, you won’t need to expose your family and any pets to the harmful chemicals used to eliminate these unwanted pests. And if that isn’t incentive enough, raptors love to eat snakes that might be otherwise hiding in the grass in your backyard.

Red-tailed hawk soaring through the blue sky
Red-tailed hawks are majestic birds to watch but are also helpful.

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