Owl nest boxes – an expert guide for adding one to your backyard

Other Animals

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Q: I would like to encourage more owls into our outdoor space, and plan to buy an owl nesting box to do so. Is there any advice I need to know before I proceed?

A: Adding a nesting box is one of the best ways to attract owls to your backyard. However, there are a few things to consider before you invest in one. These include choosing the right one for your space, installing it in a suitable location, and knowing how to maintain it. There are also some potential interlopers to look out for, and things to avoid.

Saw-whet owls are small and native to North America (Image credit: Patrice Babeux / 500px / Getty Images)
Saw-whet owls are small and native to North America (Image credit: Patrice Babeux / 500px / Getty Images)

Turn your backyard into a more wildlife-friendly space with this expert advice.

Nesting boxes can be fixed to trees (Image credit: Penny Britt / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)
Nesting boxes can be fixed to trees (Image credit: Penny Britt / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)

Choosing An Owl Nesting Box

‘It’s essential to choose the appropriate owl nesting box tailored to the specific owl species you intend to attract,’ says wildlife expert Roberto Benardout.

Ben Team of FootstepsInTheForest.com underlines this point: ‘Small owls obviously need small nesting boxes, while larger owls need more spacious accommodations. Very large owls, such as great horned owls and eagle owls, often prefer nesting in open boxes or flat platforms instead of cavity-style nesting boxes.’

You’ll need to research the native owl species in your region, Roberto says. ‘If you’re uncertain, seek guidance from your local wildlife organization.’

Ben also recommends spending some time outside at night listening to the owls in your area. ‘Different species have different calls, which you can learn by listening to YouTube videos or by visiting bird-oriented websites.

‘Once you’ve identified the species in your area, you can select an appropriate box or platform,’ Ben continues. If you’re choosing a box, ensure the size of the entrance hole is suitable, too.

Roberto also advises opting for materials that are water-resistant and safe for owls. ‘Avoid the use of toxic substances, like paints or stains, inside the box to ensure the owls’ well-being.’


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This article by Holly Crossley was first published by Homes and Gardens on 28 October 2023. Lead Image: (Image credit: Karl Ander Adami / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images).

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