Owl Facts You Need to Know When Choosing an Owl House

Learn some basics owl facts like the proper way to construct owl houses for the screen owl, saw-whet owl, barn owl and barred owl. Have you considered building an owl house? Of the 18 species of owls found in North America, Barred Owls, Barn Owls, Northern Saw-whet Owls and Eastern and Western Screech Owls are the ones most likely to take up residence in a birdhouse or nesting box.

Where Do Owls Nest?
Owls are cavity dwellers. They live in hollow logs or hollowed spots in old trees, on ledges of cliffs, in underground burrows, in old and abandoned houses and buildings or old barns. They often reuse old hawk or crow nests, or steal a martin gourd. They might nest in a stump, cave or on the ground in a fallen log, pile of rocks or under palmettos in the south. An owl might nest in an old mine shaft, church steeple, duck blind, the side of an old well or the crevice in a building.

Owls nest in abandoned woodpecker cavities and some will nest in birdhouses. If you love owls, you may want to attempt to get some to nest and raise chicks in your yard. A farm is the most likely spot for nesting owls.

Saw-whets and Screechers
A house for a Northern Saw-whet or Western or Eastern Screech Owl should be a plain box (no perch needed), with inside floor dimensions of six inches to eight inches square. The box should be about 16 to 18 inches tall with an entrance hole 2 ½ to 4 inches in diameter. Place the house 10 inches above the floor and about 5 to 20 feet high on a tree, pole or building on the edge of your property where there are plenty of trees and preferably a pond or swampy area nearby.

The screech owl does not build a nest, but uses the rotted wood chips, leaves and feathers of its prey as its nest. Screech owls lay two to seven pure white elliptical eggs, which the female incubates for about 26 days. Since the incubation begins as soon as the last egg is laid, the eggs hatch at different times. The first may hatch two to three weeks before the last egg. The male brings food to the mother bird during incubation because she rarely leaves the nest.

Saw-whet owls lay five to eight pure white, oval to nearly elliptical eggs, which are incubated for 20 to 28 days. Occasionally, these owls produce two broods in one year.

Barn Owl House
The entrance hole must be six to eight inches in diameter and placed four inches above the floor. The box should be 16 inches tall and the floor dimensions should be about 16 inches wide and 22 inches deep. Place the house on a barn or 10 to 20 feet above the ground on a tree or pole. An open field is the best place to build your owl house.

Barn owls line their spaces with rootlets, leaves, grass, castings and other debris. Barn owls don't build a nest. They typically lay five to seven non-glossy, white eggs that are elliptically shaped. The female lays the eggs two or three days apart and she incubates them for as long as 34 days before hatching the clutch. The nestling stage can last 56 days and then be followed by two weeks of fledging care.

Barred Owl House
The barred owl house should be 22 to 28 inches tall. The entrance hole should measure six to eight inches in diameter and at least 14 inches above the box floor. The floor dimensions are 13 to 14 inches square. Hang the box 10 to 20 feet high on a tree near woods or a swamp in a rural area. This large owl will need space.

Barred owls lay only two or three oval or elliptical un-glossed, white eggs. The male shares the incubating while the female hunts for her own food. Incubation takes 28 to 33 days and there is one brood a year.

Birds That Climb?
Barred owl and screech owl chicks have the strange and useful talent of tree climbing. If they fall before they can fly, these owlets can climb, using their talons, beaks and wings, back up the tree trunk to the nest. In about 20 minutes, barred owl chicks can climb as far as 50 feet.

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