Nesting requirements for South African Owl Species
Commencing with the owl nest box fabrication in 1995 when I received hard copy sketch plans from the Witwatersrand Bird Club for both Spotted Eagle Owl and Barn Owl boxes, I was so enthusiastic about the thought of having my own boxes in my own garden, I immediately sourced the material and built both types over one weekend!
Found in wooded habitats of savanna regions. They nest in the main trunk of trees, often using old woodpecker holes. These holes are 1-6m off the ground and have a narrow entrance of approximately 5cm in diameter. The wood chip-lined chamber is 23-35cm deep. Breeding season: early summer.
AFRICAN SCOPS OWL
Nests in vertical cavities in trees of open and semi-arid woodland. The cavity is 20-40cm deep and is located 3-5m above the ground. Nest boxes with side entrances have been successfully used. The eggs are laid on a bed of woodchips in early summer.
Lives in woodland areas in natural cavities and rot holes in tree where branches have broken off. They require an entrance hole of at least 7cm in diameter, so woodpecker holes tend to be too small. The cavities are 15-30cm deep and are found at a height of 4-6m above the ground. Breeding season: early summer.
Lives in woodland, savannah and dry thorn-veld habitats. They use old nests of other birds that have a minimum flat base of 20cm and that are found between the heights of 2-13m off the ground. Breeding season: early summer.
Lives in most habitat types except forests, and will often use man-made structures to nest in. They require a safe, semi-enclosed place of at least 30cm in width. Breeding season: early winter.
GRASS & MARSH OWL
Inhabit vlei and grassland areas, nesting, in early winter, on the ground under tufts of rank veld grass.
Nests in natural cavities or rot holes in trees of indigenous forest areas. They will sometimes utilize artificial boxes in evergreen forest patches. These cavities need to be 20-25cm wide, approximately 25cm deep and have an entrance hole of approximately 12cm in diameter. The box should be placed at a height of between 2 and 5m above the ground. Breeding season: early summer.
They occur in all different biomes, except forest and desert regions. They nest most commonly on the ground, amongst rocks or under shrubs, or in a wide crotch in a low tree. They make a scrape out of wood chips, leaves or pebbles. Man-made structures and old nest sites are also used, but preferred nest sites are all open. Breeding season: early summer.
CAPE EAGLE OWL
Nests on rocky prominences or cliff faces and make scrapes of 28-38cm in width. They prefer a scrape that is covered by a ledge or foliage. Breeding season: winter.
VERREAUX’S (GIANT) EAGLE OWL
Nests in large stick platforms that are often old eagle nests, at a height of 3- 15m above the ground. (Likes Wahlbergs eagle nests, for example) They do not build or repair the nest, but just make a shallow depression in which to lay their eggs in winter.
PELS FISHING OWL
Is found nesting in low-lying, floodplain forest fringes in large trees close to a river. They use large holes or spacious crotches in trees at a height of 4-5m above the ground. These nests are between 30 and 40cm in diameter and the hole is 500mm – 1m in depth. The nest becomes lined with debris, scales and bark. Breeding season: late summer.
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