In late fall while we humans are staying home and cozying up, the male Barn Owl is hard at work searching for a nest site in which to raise a family.
Barn Owls are cavity nesters and most often use tree hollows as natural nest sites, as well as dark crevices, ledges in abandoned buildings, palm trees, attics (if they find a way in), between hay bales and in old barns, as their name suggests.
These unfortunate babies often end up dead, or if they are lucky, they are brought to WildCare.
They're a wide variety of issues, but two of the greatest and most common problems concern heat and accessibility. High temperatures can turn an owl box into an oven. The owlets will jump out prematurely if temperatures inside the box become unbearable, or the owlets can die from dehydration inside the box if they are too young to jump out.
Heat will build up inside the box if it:
- has inadequate ventilation
- is badly placed (little or no shade or no sunroof)
- was built with wood that is too thin (under ½”)
- is too small
- is so full of debris there is little room for air flow
- is placed facing SW, directly towards afternoon sun with no shade
- is likely to have increased heat from the afternoon sun shining directly into the box through the entrance hole.
is one whose box design replaces ventilation holes with gaps on the left and right sides, to allow increased airflow. They are now painting the boxes a much lighter color to help reflect heat and enlarged the cleaning flap for easier use, and to encourage annual cleaning. Annual cleaning will help maintain better ventilation and help keep owlets safely in the box.
All of their boxes now come with sunroofs attached, and additional side shade-panels can easily be added.
Nesting boxes WITHOUT sunroofs were found to have an internal temperature of eight to fifteen degrees Fahrenheit above the ambient temperature. They ask that careful consideration be taken when choosing locations for boxes. Temperature should be a major consideration. Accessibility often encounter problems with owl boxes installed too high to be accessible for maintenance. This makes cleaning and other maintenance very difficult, and makes monitoring the box impossible. Should an owlet fall out of the box it’s more likely to get injured and having a box too high makes it that much harder to return an owlet to the box.
A box at an accessible height also encourages cleaning not exceeding twelve feet. Occupancy at lower heights also has had great results . There are certain situations that do require the box to be higher, such as in parks when having a higher box helps avoid human interference.
Reminder for all current box owners: October and November are the safest months to check on your box and do any needed maintenance inside or out! Thoroughly clean boxes that were occupied this year.
Owning an owl box is a responsibility and it is important to consider it carefully before buying and installing one. It is well worth the time and research it takes to be sure the owls will be safe and will be able to successfully raise a family. Having owls is not only beneficial, highly-rewarding and educational,
“It is a wonderful and magical experience, the owls are just so beautiful!”