Box Installations & Info
Self Installations: If you plan to install your nesting boxes yourself we can supply installation instructions for all of our boxes. Give us a call or email, we are happy to answer your questions! Also, great info can be found further down the page about owl habitat and our boxes.
HOP Tree Installations: Have your nesting boxes installed in trees by HOP approved installers. Call or email for more info.
Price: $100 per box. Paid to installer.
HOP Post Installations: Have your nesting boxes installed on posts by HOP approved installers. Price INCLUDES barn owl box, post, cement, all required materials, delivery and installation! Call or email for more info.
Price: $400 per box. (For installations outside of Marin there is a single $100 additional fee, covering up to 5 boxes).
Determining whether you have the right habitat for an owl box.
Barn Owl Habitat
Barn owl habitat is generally open fields and meadows. Barn owls are plentiful in Marin in urban, suburban and rural areas such as West Marin, especially Nicasio and even out at Pt. Reyes. Barn owl boxes should not be within 1/2 mile of heavily wooded areas, as that is the home of their predator, the great horned owl. However, if you know you have barn owls in the area already, then the boxes will help give them a safe place to roost...if you hear screeching, screaming, clicking, squawking type sounds around after dusk and dark - those are sounds of barn owls. Baby barn owls are pretty noisy throughout the night for the first few months - so keep that in mind when considering a barn owl box.
Western Screech Owl Habitat
Western Screech Owl, Indian Valley, Novato, Photo (c) Catherine Tryon
Western screech owls are often found in oak woodlands and wooded areas, especially near streams. They look like a mini great horned owl with ear tufts that give them a cat-like appearance. In a tree they can completely disappear with their cryptic coloration. They are small but fierce and will eat a variety of rodent, insect, spider, scorpian, amphibian, aquatic, and even bird prey. Their call is a descending whistling or trilling sound. It is very common for a screech owl to check out a barn owl box and even stay for awhile. Occasionally they will nest in a barn owl box as well. They are often seen perched in the large hole of a barn owl box keeping an eye on things. More information about Western Screech Owl (Otus kennicottii).
Northern Saw-whet Owl Habitat
Coniferous and deciduous forests, riparian habitat. Prefers damp areas over dry. Will often use old Pileated Woodpecker holes for nesting. We've had several reports of what sound like Saw-whet Owls using the screech owl boxes. More information about Northern Saw-whet Owl. (Aegolius acadicus).
American Kestrel Habitat
Good information on the habitat requirements of American Kestrels (North America's smallest falcon, and a cavity nester) can be found at skyhunters.org. American Kestrel boxes and Screech Owl boxes are very similar. Either species taking up residence is a good thing!
How many barn owl boxes?
For properties with acreage, 4-6 boxes over 50 acres is a good start. There are enough nest boxes when 20% - 30% are not occupied, allowing room for natural fluctuation related to rodent population. Empty boxes allows for the return of juveniles to the area to have a place to nest the following year. Do not place the boxes above areas where vehicles or equipment is stored as there can be a mess generated under the box once owls move in. If boxes are placed on poles, the poles should be within 100 yards of a large tree so that the young have a nearby by place to fly to when they fledge (leave the nest).
Please let us know if your box becomes occupied as we are collecting data for research on owls. How to tell it is occupied (barn owl box): the drainage holes on the bottom become plugged up with nesting material (barn owl pellets), seeing "white wash" on the ground (owl droppings that look like splashes of white paint), hearing screeching, screaming sounds in the area at night, scratch marks around the entry hole on the box. If your box gets occupants (which can take time depending on if barn owls are already around or not), you could put up a second box if your property has enough space. Sometimes screech owls move into barn owl boxes - they too are beautiful and beneficial as they eat small rodents and insects.
If you feel comfortable with these responsibilities, and have the right habitat for barn or screech owls, we encourage you to install an owl box to help provide homes and protection for these beautiful, and beneficial, predators. Please note that the best way to benefit from the amazing hunting prowess of Barn Owls on your local rodent and gopher populations is to install more than one box, as the owl will not hunt directly beneath its nest because this could attract the attention of predators, such as the Great Horned Owl. If feasible, we also recommend placing a three-foot wide band of metal flashing around the tree trunk, under the box, for additional protection from climbing predators, such as raccoons, cats, and bobcats. The owl boxes can also be pole-mounted, which is a bit more effort and requires the addition of a sun roof if placed away from the shade provided by trees. Owl boxes can be installed at any time of the year. The breeding season starts around February/March, but the boxes may become occupied as roosting sites at any time of year.
We are often asked: "Are you sure the owl can fit through that small hole"; Yes, we are sure! - see our photo at the top right.
Boxes do not come with guarantees (or owls)
Owl boxes can be installed at any time of year, but the most likely time for them to become inhabitated is over the winter months. There is no guarantee that owls will find and inhabit an owl box, and it may take one or more seasons before owls move in. We cannot provide an owl with your box, you put up the box and nature does the rest.
Please understand that if you put up a box, and get an owl family on your property, the owls will not hunt right under the nest box, BUT by having them hunting nearby they reduce the overall gopher and rodent population so less gophers/rodents will be in the area. If you have a large property and can put up multiple barn owl boxes, you will have greater coverage and more gophers and rodents will be consumed by the owls, as they will hunt near other owl's nest boxes. Barn owls are not territorial with each other, so you can have multiple boxes.
Do not place the boxes in the area of greatest rodent infestation, but rather some distance from that area to improve the chances of the owls hunting where the problem is. If using in vineyards, erecting 12' t-perches amongst the vines will give the barn owls places to perch and hunt. Barn owls employ varied hunting methods such as flying low to find prey, and perching and pouncing on prey. Barn Owls will not control all rodents, (Integrated Pest Management) IPM methods are usually needed as well with vulnerable young vines especially. Owls alone, once established, can most likely control gopher populations enough when vines are mature. Do not use any poisons on the property if you want birds of prey and other predators to help control rodents.
Warning: Barn Owls can be noisy! If you find yourself easily awakened at night, do not place a Barn Owl nest box too close to your home, and talk to your neighbors as well. Once owls move in and begin nesting they are protected by law and cannot be displaced. When the young owls fledge they will hang out in the trees and beg for food from the adults all night long. This can go on for approximately two months (then they might have a second clutch and then more hungry owls will be calling for food all night). Remember, there will be more then one chick calling at the same time, and as the chicks are born about two days apart, they will not all disperse at once. So over time there will be less calling as each owl goes out on its own to hunt.
There are responsibilities involved, especially with Barn Owl boxes
These include a regular cleaning out of the Barn Owl box within a narrow window of time (October-December). How to care for your owl box
Commitment to not disturb nesting owls. All native birds are protected by State & Federal Law, especially when nesting. Any disturbance is a Federal & State offense. So if you decide that your tree needs cutting down, or trimming, and there are owls using your box, you will have to wait until the Fall to make any changes to the tree.
Barn Owls can be quite noisy at night during breeding and nesting seasons. Be sure to talk to your nearest neighbors and assess their noise tolerance before encouraging Barn Owls to nest on your property, because once they start nesting they are protected from disturbance and if you or your neighbors don't like the noise, you will have to put up with it for a few months until nesting is over. Only then could you remove, or move, the owl box!
Protecting the owls from poisoning by not using rodenticides (rat, gopher, poisons) and pesticides on your property and confirming that they are not in use on adjacent properties. Screech Owls eat many insects and can be harmed by pesticides and herbicides.
Notifying the Hungry Owl Project if you plan to move and whether you are taking the box or leaving it behind. Remember the box cannot be disturbed during the nesting season (January - October).
Contacting a licensed wildlife hospital, the Hungry Owl Project, or your local humane society if you find an injured or orphaned owl.
About Our Boxes
Our barn owl boxes are made of sturdy 1/2inch plywood. They are carefully designed for the specific breeding habits of the owls, and for their protection against predators. They come complete with air holes, drainage holes, and have a trap door for easy cleaning. They are treated with water-based deck stain or are painted with non-toxic paint and will last for many years. Colors may vary slightly. Community volunteers, including local schools and Boy Scout troops, make all boxes. All proceeds from the sale of these boxes go back into research and the promotion of safe habitat for owls.