How to attract owls | Living the Country Life

How to attract owls

Learn what to add to your property to invite these twilight visitors in

Radio interview source: Jim Pease, Extension wildlife specialist, Iowa State University









Listen here for the radio story

There's nothing like sitting on the porch on a warm night and listening to the haunting call of a hidden owl. In reality, having a barn owl roosting nearby is more helpful than haunting.

Over the years we've had owls come and go. What a hoot they are! I think they nest in the hollow trees down by the creek. They like to perch on our barn roof and dine on the occasional mouse that dares to show his whiskers. Apparently there is plenty of food for them at our place because unlike other bird species, there is no "owl-chow" you can buy at the local garden center to coax them to your yard. They prefer meals that breathe.

Iowa State Extension Wildlife Specialist Jim Pease says owls love to eat mice, rabbits, voles and other small creatures. If your lawn is perfectly manicured, you probably won't see any. I never thought this radio program would advise you to landscape for vermin, but if you want owls around, you need to.

"Habitat can be as simple as brush piles here and there, to locations that have lots and lots of small shrubs that give off seeds that will attract rodents," Pease says. "And generally rodents are not that difficult to attract."

If there's food, they'll need somewhere to live. Another way to attract owls is to have nesting habitat. Some will take up residence in old trees, and others might check out a nesting box if you make one for them.

"They need to probably be 10 to 15 feet off the ground at a minimum," Pease says. "In the case of screech owls and barred owls, sometimes you can put them up in a tree, at the side of a tree, or sometimes even on a building."

There is no guarantee they'll move in. In fact the squirrels might start picking out curtains before the owls do! One thing's for sure, it is absolutely essential that the box is rainproof. If the box is not watertight it should only be used in dry locations.

Pease says you'll know just by perking up your ears if your efforts have paid off. "The deep hoots of the barn owl is a really nice sound to have around."

Learn more:

Owl box plans: Download plans for boxes suitable for barred and barn owls.

Build a barn owl box: You can build a home for owls with a barrel, cat litter box, or other everyday items.

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