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Owls inspire wonder and sometimes fear. Perhaps it’s their nocturnal lifestyle that we associate with evil, the unknown, and creatures that go bump in the night. Or maybe it’s their silent flight, an advantage when hunting in the darkness. The edges to their wings make their approach quiet for their unsuspecting victims.
However, owls are essential parts of the food web. Without predators like them, prey species would increase unchecked, leading to unavoidable habitat degradation and starvation. It’s all about balance. If you are an avid birdwatcher, these raptors undoubtedly have a place of respect for you.
Attracting owls to your yard begins with providing the environmental elements and conditions that they prefer. These features are not arbitrary. They help ensure the species’ hunting success and thus, their survival. The key is patience. Owls, by their nature, are wary and often stick with the tried-and-true.
The essential thing to understand about owls is that they are typically both secretive and solitary. They rely on stealth to capture their prey. That’s why you’ll see many species with incredible camouflage.
Since they roost during the day, you may not even spot one right above you. These predators prefer habitats that can provide shelter that can conceal them. An undisturbed patch of woods is ideal.
Birds vary in their tolerance for disturbances. Owls are species that won’t stand for much activity around them, especially during nesting. They are fiercely territorial and protective at that time.
We suggest providing a quiet area of your yard for them. Don’t put a swing set or patio near the spot. Otherwise, they’ll abandon it and move to someplace with less activity.
Many owls are cavity-nesting birds. They often prefer larger trees, which have holes big enough for them. For instance, a Great Horned Owls can be 25 inches, making a bigger box imperative.
Height also matters. Many species pick nesting spots that are 15 feet or higher. That helps with hunting because prey animals don’t often look up for threats.
It’s also essential to protect a clutch of eggs and a brood against predators, such as raccoons. A sheet of aluminum installed around the base of the trunk is an effective deterrent.
This tip is going to sound odd, especially if you’ve ever had a problem with rodents or other pests. Putting out a brush pile provides cover and shelter for prey species. In this case, it attracts the animals that many owls hunt: rodents, rabbits, and even birds.
Owls, like other predators, plant their stakes where food is abundant. It saves precious energy and plays a significant role in their survival.
Even if the rodents you’re attracting end up in your house or garage, it’s imperative to not use pesticides to keep them under control. Many ingredients can accumulate in the tissues of predators like owls after they eat the animal. That can quickly build up to toxic levels. It’s one of the reasons that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned DDT in the 1970s.
If you want to keep pests under control, opt for mousetraps or live traps instead. It’ll satisfy both of your needs.
We’re told to cut dead branches to promote air circulation and keep the trees healthy. But bare branches provide perching spots for the owls. Remember that they want a straight, clear path to their nests and roosts. Changing your mindset about maintenance can help attract owls to your yard.
This step gives prey species cover while traveling from place to place. Long grass will encourage rodents to hang out on your property. When you invite these animals, you are laying out the welcome mat for owls too.
Dead trees tick off several boxes to make your backyard more hospitable to owls. They provide shelter for rodents and are a source of food for them with the insects they attract. Other cavity-nesting birds like woodpeckers can create habitats for smaller owls to nest and roost during the winter.
As nocturnal predators, owls rely on the cover of the night to give them an edge when hunting — except the diurnal Snowy Owl. Don’t install solar path lights or a motion sensor in this area. Instead, keep it unlit to avoid disturbing the owls.
Owls are much different from other birds. They only occasionally like a bath. Still, you need something larger than the everyday birdbath. Having a water source nearby will help fulfill their other essential needs. It’ll also attract prey species.
Putting up a bird feeder is another way to attract rodents and other prey species. Birds aren’t the neatest of eaters. They’re messy and scatter seeds, especially if there’s something in the mix that they don’t like. The mess is an excellent way to bring rodents like mice and squirrels to your yard — and the predators will follow.
Native plants offer many advantages that go beyond attracting owls. They are easy to maintain because they are adapted to your area. They can handle extreme weather events too. These plants can provide welcome cover for both predators and prey. It’s the proverbial win-win when you want to attract owls.
Owls prefer the height and larger diameter of tall trees. If you’re going to plant some in your yard, choose species that will tower above the rest. Some, like pines, grow fast to provide cover and potential nesting areas for the owls. You’ll also benefit from the privacy that they offer. You can’t ask for a better screen that will protect your house and muffle road noise.
If you’re going to attract predators like owls, you have to remember that your dog or cat is prey to them. Keep them inside at night to avoid conflicts. If you must let your pup outside, either walk them or stay outdoors with them. An owl is less likely to swoop down if there is a person in the area.
Many owl species have distinctive calls, which is good because it’s unlikely that you’ll see one. Once you start hearing them at night, figure out which kind it is. This way, you can tailor other modifications or additions to your yard to suit them. For example, if you know that they’re a Barred Owl, you can choose the appropriately sized nestbox.
Owls are fascinating birds. They hunt and succeed in conditions that many animals find challenging. Attracting them to your yard may not happen right away. However, with patience and perseverance, you can enjoy the presence of these raptors and perhaps even keep a rodent problem in check.
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Featured Image Credit: Piqsels
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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