The construction of a nest box for owls requires a significant investment of both time and mental energy; however, there are a few basic guidelines that must be adhered to in order for your birdhouse to be used.
This article’s goal is to provide you with some direction and a straightforward approach that you can use to ensure the success of the owl project you are working on.
Remember the old adage, “Measure twice, so you only have to cut once,” whenever you decide what kind of nest box you will make or buy. Before beginning to cut any wood, it is important to ensure that your measurements are accurate so that you can avoid making expensive mistakes. Keep in mind that these birds only have one successful breeding season per year and that they might not return to a particular nesting site until the following spring. Therefore, you shouldn’t just throw anything that works together. Instead, you should construct a nest box with an entrance that is as narrow as it can be while still being large enough to keep out potential dangers. Raccoons and domestic cats are the primary targets of this strategy.
The size of the owl that will use your nest box depends on the type of owl you intend for it to be used by, so consider the species of owls that are native to the region in which you live and make your plans accordingly. The ideal nesting space for an owl is approximately 12 inches (30 cm) by 8 inches (20 cm). They cannot turn around inside if it is made any narrower than this, so please don’t make it any narrower than this. Also, there should not be more than one hole in the front of the box. Even with just one exit, I have seen owls fight over who gets to use which exit first, and when they can’t decide, they end up starving because they can’t pick between the two exits.
The longevity and resistance to the elements of cedar led me to choose it as the material for the owl boxes I make. In addition, cedar has insecticidal properties, making it an excellent defence mechanism against wood-boring beetles. Screen or hardware cloth should be used to cover the front of all owl nest boxes. This will prevent small animals like mice, squirrels, raccoons, and snakes from entering the nest boxes and preying on the young owls or eggs that may be contained within the nest box.
The owl box should be hung in a tree at about eye level with an owl standing on the ground and should face in the direction where the wind blows most frequently approximately 270 degrees. Most owl species prefer to build their nests at about 3 meters (10 feet) above the ground. They will enjoy it more if it is placed higher up in a tree than they normally would.
If you are able to construct your own owl box from scratch, you should consider using cedar beams or studs rather than plywood. This will prevent rodents like mice and squirrels from chewing holes in the unprotected wood underneath your owl box, which could allow larger animals to enter later when the owls are breeding inside.
Applying one coat of exterior latex paint over both sides of the owl box and even inside the holes in your owl house, if you are able to access them, will deter these small animals from entering your owl house. This won’t harm your owl, but it will make it more challenging for rodents like mice and squirrels to make the owl nest box their home.
Because owls are such fiercely territorial animals, it is essential to space owl boxes at least 91 meters (about 100 yards) apart whenever possible. If that is not an option, then the best way to completely avoid owl nests is to place a variety of owl houses along a route that owls typically fly between their daytime roosting perches in large trees and their nighttime hunting grounds over ravines, fields, or water bodies where small rodents reside. This will allow you to completely avoid owl nests.
The ideal location for the owl’s nest is a tree that has an open area of ground underneath it. This will prevent the owl from feeling hemmed in or cut off from its hunting grounds. The majority of owl species prefer a cavity in the trunk of a dead tree, but you can also use an owl box in its place if you can’t locate a suitable tree.
If you find out that snakes have threatened the fledgling owls that are currently living in your owl house, you can try using a cardboard tube in place of one of the entrance holes until the young birds are mature enough to take care of themselves when they leave their nest at about three months of age.
When planning and constructing owl boxes, it is important to keep the following factors in mind:
1. Do not use pressure-treated lumber near the entrances of owl boxes because it contains toxic chemicals that can harm a nesting owl or the eggs that she is incubating.
2. Always use owl nesting boxes made from wood products that have not been coated with any kind of paint, stain, or preservative that is not water-resistant. Doing so will prevent the owl’s feathers from becoming sticky, which will make it more difficult for the owl to fly in wet weather or if it comes into contact with water while preening (grooming).
3. Drill a few small holes about halfway up each side of your owl house to allow for ventilation and to allow the owls to regulate their body temperature by allowing air to flow in and out of the house. This is essential, particularly during the chilly months of winter when there is no sunlight to warm the interior of an owl house.
4. It is best to mount cylindrical owl boxes approximately one to two meters off of the ground, and it is best to hang round owl nesting boxes from tree limbs approximately one meter above the ground. Potential predators interested in entering your owl box will have a much more difficult time obtaining their prey once they are inside.
If you do not have a tree in your yard that is sufficiently tall, you can try mounting your owl box on top of a post that is attached to a large tree trunk that is located nearby but not directly underneath it. This will prevent the box from casting too much shade on the young birds that are housed inside.
If you live in an area that does not have a neighbourhood arrangement like this one, you might want to consider putting up owl houses adjacent to utility poles that are already in close proximity to your own owl box. The location and layout of your yard at your current home will almost certainly play a role in determining the design that you decide to have installed. Because of this, owl parents are able to freely come and go from their daytime roosting perches in large trees or telephone or electrical towers without fear of being spotted by passing predators like hawks, which rely on sight rather than hearing vibrations in the air to find a meal.
Some species of owls have begun to learn that humans make the plastic owl models that are hung by wires from tree limbs, and they will use them as a place to reside because they provide protection against the rain or sun without requiring any effort on their part. However, you should be careful when installing these owl houses because some owls have only recently learned how to fly and may be tempted to land there. However, this should only be done if the owl house is raised high enough off the ground to protect the occupants from potential predators.
If you live close to a highway, you might want to consider putting up an owl house in the shape of an owl that was designed by a wildlife biologist who specializes in researching the habits of owls. The shape of an owl serves three very important purposes. First, it helps reduce the risk of a vehicle colliding with an owl, which could happen if the owl flew into the owl house in the middle of the night and was unable to get out before sunrise.
Second, let’s imagine that a real owl was to land there in the middle of the day. If this is the case, it will be much simpler for her to recognize that she has alighted on a replica of a human owl house as opposed to a real owl nest, the latter of which could expose her young to danger from predators such as hawks, which rely on sight rather than hearing vibrations in the air to locate a meal.
If you have ever made an owl box, please share your experience with us in the comments section below.