Owls and cats have long been used to control rodents naturally. Getting a cat is as simple as visiting the local shelter, but what about attracting a wild owl? You might be surprised to learn you don’t need a barn or acres of land to create a suitable owl home.
Do owls really help control rodents?
Absolutely. An adult barn owl will catch and eat up to 12 rodents per night while brooding in the late spring and early summer. Even without babies to feed they maintain a steady nightly hunting routine of several rats, mice and moles. Owls fly with almost no noise at all making it easy to sneak up on an unsuspecting rat or mouse. Washington State alone is home to 13 different species of owls.
One important thing to keep in mind if you’re hoping to attract an owl is avoiding the use of rodent poison. At Parker Eco Pest Control we never use rodenticides (nobody wants a rat dying slowly in their wall) but the most important reason to avoid poison is the harmful impact on the food chain. Rats eat a small amount of the poison and owls eat many, many rats, concentrating the poison. The cumulative effect on birds of prey and neighborhood cats can be deadly.
Setting up an owl box
Timing: While you can install an owl box year round, most owl species begin looking for a nesting spot between January
and March. Now is the perfect time to install a box, sit back, and wait.
Position: Follow these best practices to increase the likelihood of attracting an owl.
- Mount the box at least 10 feet off the ground.
- The opening shouldn’t face towards the wind. For most locations this isn’t an issue, but if you live on a bluff with a constant breeze you should take that into consideration.
- Do not put an owl box on a utility pole.
- Make sure the interior floor of the box is level once it’s mounted.
- Position it with a clear approach path, not hidden by branches. Owls will likely discover the box by spotting the dark entry hole.
- Try to face the entry hole out over an open area rather than inward towards nearby trees or buildings.
- Some research shows that owls prefer an Eastern-facing opening.
Luck: Owls are successfully attracted about half the time. Your best bet for attracting an owl in an urban environment is installing multiple boxes in the neighborhood. Placing a box approximately every 100 yards will boost your chances. Having an owl on your block will greatly reduce your rodent population, even if the owl isn’t nesting in your backyard.
How do you know if your box has a new resident? Look for stray feathers, white droppings around the entry hole, and above all listen for hoots and shrieks at night.
Want help installing an owl box in the Seattle area?
We can help you find and install the perfect owl box for your property, even if you’re in the city. Contact Chris Parker, owner of Parker Eco Pest Control, at 800-326-1698 or Chris@ParkerEcoPestControl.com.