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Attracting owls to your garden

Written By

Boudewyn van der Lecq

Date

Nov 26, 2021

Category

Which Owls will use my box?

Your owl box was designed to attract either a Spotted Eagle‐Owl (Bubo africanus) or a Barn Owl (Tyto alba). The Barn Owl prefers a closed box with just a small opening for entry, while the Spotted Eagle-Owl prefers a more open box, from which it can scan its surroundings.

Barn Owls hunt by flying over open, vegetated areas supporting rodents. People living on smallholdings or farms are likely to see or hear Barn Owls on their properties. Their call is a harsh shriek. Spotted Eagle-Owl is commonly found in wooded suburban gardens. They are flexible hunters that will eat insects or rodents. These owls have a hooting call.

Which Owls will use my box?

Your owl box was designed to attract either a Spotted Eagle‐Owl (Bubo africanus) or a Barn Owl (Tyto alba). The Barn Owl prefers a closed box with just a small opening for entry, while the Spotted Eagle-Owl prefers a more open box, from which it can scan its surroundings.

Barn Owls hunt by flying over open, vegetated areas supporting rodents. People living on smallholdings or farms are likely to see or hear Barn Owls on their properties. Their call is a harsh shriek. Spotted Eagle-Owl is commonly found in wooded suburban gardens. They are flexible hunters that will eat insects or rodents. These owls have a hooting call.

Where should I put my owl box?

Attach your owl box to a building or tree at least four metres above ground. If a very young owl falls out of the box, you can then put it back, while it is high enough to prevent unnecessary disturbance.

Ideally, place the box in a tree with rough bark or branches along the trunk, so that young owls can clamber up and down. They may leave their nest before they can fly, but their parents will continue to look after them for some time.

Don’t put the box up too near to your living area, as owls can be messy and noisy. Breeding owls can also become aggressive if they feel threatened. Place the box in such a way that a flying owl can easily see and access the entrance. Box placement should avoid the prevailing wind and rain, and also harsh sun. Warmth is however important, and the box should not be in complete shade.

Maintaining your owl box

Your owl box is waterproof and should last several years under normal South African weather conditions. Simply clean out the box annually after the young have fledged. Bees could become a problem if they move into an owl box. Contact a professional bee removal service to deal with the problem. Other bird species might also move into an owl box. Watch your owl box carefully and chase these intruders away before they settle in.

Once the owls are cozy

When owls have accepted your owl box, take steps to ensure that they don’t come to unnatural harm. Owl numbers are limited by food, and a system without a healthy population of rodent and insect prey will be unable to support owls.

Protect breeding owls from people and pets that could harm them. There are many superstitious beliefs about owls and some people fear them. Your owl box is an opportunity to educate your children and friends about the value of owls.

Why attract owls to your garden?

Apart from being beautiful to look at and listen to, owls are also extremely useful birds to have in your garden. The large Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus) eats mostly insects and can sometimes be seen leaping about beneath street lamps, catching bugs. This bird is however opportunistic and will gladly feed on rats if they make themselves available. The smaller Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is a supreme ratter and its population can quickly increase to take advantage of rodent plagues, and then shrink when food becomes scarce. Conveniently, these owls are very comfortable in suburban gardens and act as inexpensive and highly efficient pest control operators.

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