Owls are seemingly mysterious, nocturnal birds whose various, hoots, screeches, and calls at night can spark the imagination. There are more than 200 species of owl around the world, 39 of which reside in North America. They aren’t easily spotted birds, especially in our yards and gardens. They’re nocturnal, meaning they tend to be more active at night, and many of the things we do on our properties drive these nocturnal birds away. When it comes to attracting owls to your yard, it’s all about creating an attractive space for them to live, nest, and hunt.
In this article, we’ll explore a number of different strategies for attracting owls to your yard. We’ll also take a deeper dive into some of the potentially negative elements associated with attracting owls and why you may want to discourage them from visiting your property.
Do you really want owls in your yard?
Before you set about attracting owls, you should be asking yourself: would attracting owls present a problem for me? If you keep small, prey animals like rabbits or chickens, deliberately attracting these birds to your yard could be putting those pets in harm’s way. Even if your poultry or other small animals are secured, owls can give them a mighty scare, which can have a negative impact on the health of these animals.
Rabbits, for example, can experience extreme stress from unwanted predator pressure, which can have major consequences. Chickens are the same – and in some cases, if they don’t feel safe, they won’t lay as many, or any, eggs for you. Definitely not ideal! If you’re concerned that owls may attempt to prey on your pets, purposefully trying to attract them is probably not the right choice.
How to attract owls to your yard
There are definitely some pros to attracting owls to your yard. They’re really cool if you can catch a glimpse of one, their hoots and cries in the night stir the imagination, and they’re excellent pest control. They will gladly eat up any mice or other rodents that are calling your property home. How do we go about attracting these birds?
Keep your yard dark
When it comes to attracting owls to your yard, half the battle is creating an inviting atmosphere. Owls are nocturnal and will avoid properties that are too well-lit. These birds strongly prefer dark spaces to do their hunting and living. If your yard is usually well-lit, consider putting lights on a timer and shut them off beginning at 9 to 10pm. Light pollution, in general, isn’t ideal – many animals around the world need darkness at night in order to thrive.
Create habitat for owl food sources
One of the best things you can do to attract owls is to make sure that they have a food source. Their favorite foods are usually rodents like mice and rats. I know, it probably sounds really odd to suggest attracting rodents, but much of the time, they’re already on your property. What you want to do is create the conditions for them to come out into the open. Rodents often feel safest in the open when the grass is a bit taller. If you want to attract these mysterious, nocturnal birds, mow a bit less often. Let your grass achieve a bit of height.
Put up owl nesting boxes
We’ve covered habitat and food – now let’s look at nesting. Owls like nesting in large, cavernous spaces with tight openings 10-15 feet above the ground. Purchasing or building owl-specific nest boxes is probably your best bet for attracting owls to a nesting site on your property.
Along with providing nesting boxes placed 10-15 feet above the ground, avoid pruning any horizontal branches on trees and shrubs. Owls like to be able to perch on sturdy, horizontal branches. Be sure to leave a few for owl visitors!
Provide a water source
So we’ve talked about habitat, food, and nesting. There’s one final detail for attracting owls: water. Like many other types of birds, owls bathe in water. They also require a clean source of water for drinking. Not every species of owl bathes in water. Great horned owls have been observed to be less fond of water baths. But most do enjoy bird baths. Owls do tend to be a bit larger, so an extra-large bird bath will accommodate their size well.