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Installing a Barn Owl Nest Box

Barn owls (Tyto alba) are found around the world, with the exception of regions that experience extreme hot and cold temperatures. Like most owls, barn owls are nocturnal and use their powerful wings to fly silently over open woodlands and grassy areas as they hunt for their favorite foods — rodents and other small vertebrates.

owl nest

Putting up a barn owl box near your home lets you provide shelter for an owl family and offer your own family a real-life glimpse into wild bird life. But before you buy or build a backyard owl box, there are a few important factors to consider.

Where to Install an Owl Box

Above ground noise. The ideal location for an owl nesting box is in a tree about 15 feet above the ground and away from both human interaction and street noise.

Out of direct sunlight. Heat build-up in owl boxes can be fatal to baby owls (owlets). Locate your box away from direct sunlight and shaded by leafy bowers if possible.

Close to tree branches. Owlets will begin learning to fly when they are around 7 weeks old. This process (called “branching”) starts with hopping back and forth between branches and the nest box, learning to use their wings.

Safe from human interference. Barn owls are very sensitive to intrusion by humans, especially around hatch time. If owls are disturbed in any way, they may destroy their young and abandon the nest.

Barn Owls Are Noisy Neighbors

Contrary to popular belief, not all owls make gentle hooting noises. Barn owl sounds range from loud screeches to high pitched squawking, clicking and even hissing. When they’re hungry (which is most of the time), baby barn owls will screech, squawk and beg for food all night while their parents are out hunting.

Before installing an owl box that could keep you or your neighbors awake, make sure everyone understands the risks and rewards of hosting a barn owl nest box. This is an extremely important consideration, because like all nesting birds, owls are protected by state and federal laws that forbid relocation or interference from humans.

Get Ready to Install Your Nest Box

Once you’re confident you can provide a healthy nesting environment for a barn owl family, here are some final suggestions:

-Install your owl box before the spring breeding season begins.
-Check the Internet for ready-made nest boxes or construction plans.
-Install the box securely or hire a professional arborist to put it up.
-Be patient. It may take time for a barn owl couple to find your box.

Having a barn owl box can be exciting and educational. So do your research, understand your responsibilities, then sit back and watch as nature takes its fascinating course. You’ll find more detailed information, photos, and more on the Owl Pages. Your local Audubon Society is also a wonderful resource for information about owls and other wild birds in your area.

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