Owls are majestic creatures. They are not really domestic and do not like frequenting populated areas. But there are a lot of benefits to having an owl nesting in your backyard.
These nocturnal creatures are very private and elusive. They prefer living in uninhabited woodland areas and avoid human beings. A lot of people try to attract owls to their backyard as they prey on many unwanted pests.
Owls cannot be enticed to frequent your backyard with food. It takes a lot of patience and a few supplies and if you are prepared to put in the effort, you can surely attract owls to your backyard.
What Do Owls Bring to the Table?
Other than making frequent appearances in children’s stories, these mysterious creatures also perform a lot of duties in a backyard.
Their silent flight and large eyes make them excellent hunters, helping keep the pests at bay. Even though they aren’t really backyard birds, they can peacefully coexist with other birds on the property due to their nocturnal nature.
Depending on the type and size of the owl, they could prey on large insects, squirrels, rodents or even creatures, like snakes or lizards.
Many backyard birds can be expensive to maintain. Owls, on the other hand, do not cost you anything. You do not even need to spend money on birdseed, they hunt their food.
However, not every owl in the world is capable of being your backyard guest. Only certain species like barn owls, western screech owl and great horned owls could potentially become a visitor to your backyard.
It depends on regional owl ranges and how attractive your backyard is to them. Providing them with essentials like food and water could make your backyard more attractive to a house-hunting owl.
Creating a Welcome Environment for Owls
If you make yourself familiar with the habits and needs of owls, you will have an easier time making your backyard a welcome environment for them. Here’s what you can do to attract owls to your backyard:
Cover the Basics
First of all, you need to ensure that their basic needs are met. This means always having enough food and water to capture the owl’s attention.
However, this is easier said than done. Do not bother with filling a bird feeder, owls will not eat from them. Owls are carnivorous—but that doesn’t mean leaving out a piece of steak will attract them! They like to hunt their prey and prefer fresh meat.
What you can do is let the rodent population of your backyard thrive. Mice, voles and gophers will all attract predators like owls.
Next on the list is water. Since owls get their hydration from their prey, they do not need a lot of water. Although, they might visit a birdbath in the summer if it gets hot enough.
Owls like to live in shady, secluded areas. You need to have trees around if you are hoping to attract owls. Mature trees with dense foliage are ideal. Owls need a spot to roost in during the day.
Trunks of coniferous or deciduous trees are what owls are usually attracted to. Natural spaces are the best option as owls feel safe in these areas and will prefer to roost here.
In the absence of a suitable natural space, you could try using empty owl nest boxes. Nest boxes are basically large birdhouses without the bells and whistles.
Some smaller owl species could use a large nesting box positioned on a large tree at a height of about 1o to 20 feet from the ground. Nail the nest box to a suitable tree trunk or attach it to your barn or shed.
Barn owls, like the name suggests, often use open barns or sheds as nesting places. Leaving these places open increases your chances of attracting an owl to your backyard.
You need to have your nesting places ready by January-February. Owls are not a backyard species and nest much earlier in the year. Keep checking the boxes and keep them clear of wasps, squirrels or raccoons. They will discourage nesting owls.
With a bit of luck and the right nesting spot, you could be hosting a brood of owlets in your backyard.
Make Your Backyard Owl Friendly
Providing the bare necessities is not enough to attract owls to your backyard. You need to create an owl-friendly environment to encourage owls to nest in your backyard. It is not a familiar space for owls, you need to make it feel inviting and safe.
Here are a few steps you can take to make your backyard an owl-friendly space:
- Location, Location, Location: Like all real estate, location is key when it comes to potential nesting spots for owls. Place the nesting box in a secluded, sheltered spot that faces away from the wind.If it is south facing, it might be warmer for the owl. Make sure the nesting box is stable and sturdy enough to provide protection from other predators.
- Weed Out the Competition: Many times, other birds move into the nesting box before an owl has had a chance to look around. Most often, it is a European Starling.
Nip this problem in the bud before it is too late. Keep monitoring the box for signs of inhabitation. It helps if the box is in an enclosed woody area as compared to an open space.
You can also sprinkle wood shavings or dried pine needles inside the nesting box.
- Perks: Adding a few attractive features to your backyard might make it easier for you to attract owls to your backyard. Owls like to sit at a high spot and look for prey or watch out for predators.You can create a nice perching spot for them to make your backyard more attractive. Remember, owls like to stay hidden during the day. Tree branches can make excellent natural perching spots.If you want to create a perching spot, a tall post or pole will do the trick. Make sure that there is a perching spot every 20 feet.Install a large birdbath if temperatures in your area get high during the summer. Owls do not really visit birdbaths for drinking water, but they might like to take baths in the summer.
- Keep It Natural: Owls like natural environments. Keep your property as natural as possible with minimal pruning or maintenance. Let native shrubs or bushes sprout and do not train back tree branches.This will attract more animals, making your backyard appear as a safe, nurturing space for the owls.
What Not to Do
Now that you know what you need to do, it is just as important to know what not to do.
- Do not try to entice owls with dead mice or pieces of meat. Releasing live cage mice is also a bad idea. They cannot survive in an outdoor environment. Besides, owls need to hunt for food. They will not accept other forms of sustenance.
- Switch off all outdoor lights at night. Owls are nocturnal and prefer darkness. Keeping lights on at night will disturb them and probably drive them away.
- Don’t mow the grass. There, now you have another excuse for not mowing the grass on time: it’s for the owls!A lot of the animals that owls prey on like to hide in tall grass. If you frequently mow your lawn, you will miss out on the rodent traffic that owls like to hunt. Avoid insecticides or pesticides too. They will kill the pests that attract owls.
- Do not play recorded owl calls. They can unnecessarily disturb the bird and distract them from activities like hunting or nesting.
- Try to keep your pets indoors. Especially if you have small dogs like Chihuahuas, they might seem like prey to a hungry owl. It is best to keep an eye on your pet’s whereabouts at all times.
We don’t want to break your heart, but there are certain factors that are deal breakers for owls. If you live in an apartment in a high-rise building or your backyard has more concrete than trees and plants, owls will not nest on your property.
Or if your backyard is perfect but you live near a busy road or an area frequented by cars and full of industrial noise, you may not have any success attracting owls to your backyard.
Don’t let this dishearten you. It is best that the owls stay in areas that are safe for them.
That’s Owl for Now!
Owls are amazing backyard guests. They are beautiful, mysterious and help keep your backyard free of many unwanted pests. Attracting owls to your backyard is not a simple task.
It takes a lot of patience and a fair amount of effort to make your backyard an owl-friendly place. You need to make sure they have just the right conditions, their nesting spots are secluded enough, they have prey to hunt and foliage to make them feel safe.
It might seem like a lot of effort, but you’ll be thanking us when your backyard is home to a brood of cute little owlets.