Frequently Asked Questions
We've created this page to help answer some of the questions frequently asked regarding having owl boxes.
How can I tell if my box is occupied?
Any of these signs may indicate that you have occupants: scratches around entrance hole, "white wash" (owl poop) on tree, post or on ground below box, appearance of "plugged" drainage holes on bottom of box and hearing screeches, squawks, screams and clicks after dark. Whether you think your box might be occupied or not, please never disturb it. Sometimes there can be owls present even if none of the signs are immediately noticeable. If you'd like us to check your box for you, you can enroll the box in our monitoring program. For a small fee we make annual visits in late spring/ early summer to check on the occupancy of boxes, followed by a full report detailing occupancy, with any needed suggestions for improving or caring for box.
I have owls, what do I do now?
Congratulations! It can be an incredibly rewarding experience to live in the company of owls. Both for their astounding abilities as rodent hunters and for the simple joy of witnessing the life cycle of Barn Owls. You may have owlets present, you may see mom and dad leaving and returning with food from evening until morning, you may hear a wide variety of sounds coming from inside and around your box. Please allow them to complete their nesting cycles without disturbance and enjoy the experience. Barn Owls are typically very faithful to their nests and most commonly will return each year for the rest of their lives. Please clean your boxes annually - consult our cleaning and maintenance instructions for more info. We would love to hear about your occupied box, send us an email to let us know and if you have a photo please include it (please be very discrete and only take photos from a distance). Email us using our online form.
I still have no owls, what do I do?
Unfortunately there is no guarantee that owls will move in. We've had seemingly perfect locations where owls didn't move in for many years and we've had locations where they moved in within days of installation. Feel free to contact us for advice or take a look at our Barn Owl Box info packet. It is full of information on placing Barn Owl boxes and more. Be patient, sometimes it takes time. If you have any other questions, please contact us.
I'm worried about the owls in my box, is something wrong?
Owls can exhibit a wide variety of behaviors and it's not uncommon that we are contacted by box owners wanting to make sure their owls are ok. To remain on the safe side, if you are ever concerned about the owls living in your box please contact us. To help us help you, please take some notes first. Include the species of the owls, approximate age, behavior, locations of boxes or owls, sounds you are hearing, whether they appear injured and anything else you think might be relevant. Contact us by email or 415-453-1000 x 20. If your situation is an emergency, call WildCare’s emergency line at 415-456-7283.
Another species of owl has moved into my box, what should I do?
It's not uncommon for Screech Owls or other owls to move into Barn Owl boxes. If you think another species has moved into your box, it's best to allow them to complete their nesting cycle without disturbance. You can also install a box designed for their species and you may have luck with them moving to the new box. Feel free to contact us for advice, or take a look at our Screech Owl Box info packet.
Do I need to clean my Barn Owl box every year?
Please clean your Barn Owl box every year from late October to late November (think in between Halloween and Thanksgiving), as this is the time owls are least likely to be present. Even if you don't think it has been occupied it's important to at least check it during this window and remove any debris/nesting materials and check for possible needed repairs. Take a look at our Barn Owl info packet for more information on cleaning Barn Owl boxes.
Do I need to clean my Screech Owl box every year?
Although many experts recommend cleaning out nest boxes yearly, preferably in early spring, there's some disagreement on this point when it comes to Screech Owls. One reason for this is that the debris you'll find in Screech Owl boxes may have a life of its own. Perhaps the oddest part of Screech Owls' behavior is their association with blind snakes, which have been found in the owls' nests (As observed by Fred Gehlbach of Baylor University, the world's leading authority on Screech Owl behavior). These odd snakes, which resemble large earthworms, normally appear only at night. Gehlbach and others have observed that the owls bring these small snakes to their nests and release them. The snakes feed on the larval and pupal stages of ants and flies that live in the nest debris, reducing the number of insects competing for the headless mice, dead beetles, and other tidbits cached by the owls. Gehlbach's studies suggest that the snakes actually contribute to the owls' breeding success. We do not require that you clean your Screech Owl box every year.
What if I want to move my box?
Please only move boxes from late October to late November, as this is the time owls are least likely to be present. Be very cautious when approaching the box and if owls are still present please contact us for further info.
What if I need to perform tree, yard, landscaping or construction work near my box?
Please avoid doing anything that could potentially disturb boxes except from late October to late November, as this is the time owls are least likely to be present. If you need to perform emergency tree work, please contact us first. Be very cautious when initially approaching the box and if owls are still present please contact us for further info.
My neighbor is using rodenticides (rodent poisons), what should I do?
We encourage you to inform them of the dangers of rodenticides in a non-confrontational way. Many people simply haven't heard any reason as to why using rodenticides might not be a good idea. Please visit our non-toxic rodent control page for info you can share on rodenticides and non-toxic alternatives. We also have posters that can be shared to let the neighborhood know that owls are nesting nearby. Feel free to contact us for more information or further advice.