Attracting Screech Owls to your yard with a nest box

If you’ve ever dreamed of having Screech Owls visit your yard, then this article is for you. Attracting Screech Owls to your yard with a nest box is easier than you might think. In North America, there are multiple species of Screech Owls, and these beautiful creatures need food, water, shelter, and a place to nest. While natural cavities in trees are the ideal nesting spots for Screech Owls, they will readily use artificial owl nest boxes. This article provides the specifications for a Screech Owl nest box, including dimensions and proper placement. However, it’s important to consider that other birds and animals may compete for the nest box, so regular maintenance and cleaning is necessary. By following these simple steps, you can create the perfect habitat to attract Screech Owls to your yard and enjoy their company.

Species of Screech Owls in North America

There are several different species of screech owls found in North America, each with its own unique characteristics and habitat preferences. The four most common species are the Eastern Screech Owl, the Western Screech Owl, the Whiskered Screech Owl, and the Mexican Screech Owl. Despite their name, these owls do not actually screech. Instead, they produce a variety of sounds including trills, whinnies, and soft hoots. Each species has its own distinct call, making it possible for bird enthusiasts to identify them by sound.

Basic Requirements for Attracting Screech Owls

Attracting screech owls to your yard is relatively easy as long as you provide them with the basic necessities they require. Like all living creatures, owls need food, water, shelter, and a place to nest.


Screech owls are primarily insectivorous, but they also prey on small birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Providing a diverse range of food sources will help attract these owls to your yard. This can include leaving a portion of your property in a natural, less manicured state to encourage insect populations, as well as providing bird feeders and bird baths to attract small birds and other prey.


A steady source of freshwater is essential for attracting screech owls. This can include a bird bath, a small pond, or even a puddle that holds water for a prolonged period of time. Ensuring that the water source is clean and refreshed regularly will help maintain its attractiveness to the owls.


Owls require shelter to protect themselves from predators and the elements. Natural cavities found in trees are ideal nesting spots for screech owls. However, as their habitats continue to be disrupted, these natural cavities are becoming scarce. This is where artificial owl nest boxes can be highly beneficial.

Nesting Spot

In addition to finding suitable shelter, screech owls need a proper nesting spot to raise their young. Nest boxes offer an artificial alternative to natural cavities and provide a safe and secure place for the owls to nest and rear their chicks.

Attracting Screech Owls to your yard with a nest box

The Importance of Nest Boxes

Although natural cavities in trees are preferred by screech owls, the scarcity of suitable nesting spots means that artificial nest boxes can play a crucial role in their conservation efforts. These nest boxes mimic natural cavities and provide the owls with a safe and viable alternative for nesting.

Natural Cavities vs. Artificial Nest Boxes

Natural cavities in trees are highly sought after by screech owls due to their size, shape, and availability of suitable nesting materials. However, with the increased human intervention and habitat destruction, these natural cavities are gradually disappearing. Artificial nest boxes provide a solution by replicating the characteristics of natural cavities and offering a safe place for the owls to nest.

Advantages of Nest Boxes

Nest boxes offer several advantages for screech owls. Firstly, they provide a secure and protected environment for nesting, reducing the risk of predation and disturbance. Secondly, nest boxes are relatively easy to install, allowing homeowners and conservationists to actively participate in creating suitable habitats for these owls. Lastly, nest boxes can also be monitored, providing valuable data on the population and breeding success of screech owls.

Dimensions and Design of Screech Owl Nest Boxes

To attract screech owls, it is important to ensure that the nest boxes are designed and installed correctly. The following factors should be taken into consideration when building or purchasing nest boxes:

Appropriate box size

The size of the nest box should be proportional to the size of the owl species you are targeting. For screech owls, a box with dimensions around 8 inches wide, 16 inches tall, and 10 inches deep is suitable.

Ideal wood thickness

The wood used to construct the nest box should have a thickness of at least 0.75 inches to provide insulation and durability.

Entrance hole size and location

The entrance hole should be approximately 3 inches in diameter and placed approximately 10 inches above the floor of the box. This placement helps prevent the chicks from prematurely venturing out of the box.

Proper ventilation and drainage

To prevent moisture build-up, the nest box should be equipped with ventilation holes near the top and drainage holes at the bottom. This ensures a dry and comfortable environment for the owls.

Attracting Screech Owls to your yard with a nest box

Placement of Nest Boxes

Proper placement of nest boxes is crucial to attract screech owls to your yard. Consider the following factors when deciding where to place the boxes:

Height above the ground

Nest boxes should be mounted between 10 to 30 feet above the ground. This height provides a safe and comfortable location for the owls while also maintaining easy access for monitoring and maintenance.

Choosing suitable trees or poles

Select sturdy trees or poles to mount the nest boxes. The chosen structure should be capable of supporting the weight of the box and withstand strong winds and other environmental factors.

Facing direction and protection from elements

Nest boxes should be facing away from prevailing winds and excessive sunlight to protect the owls and their young from harsh weather conditions. Consider the natural surroundings and vegetation when determining the direction of the nest box.

Competition for Nest Boxes

While screech owls may readily use nest boxes, other birds and animals may also try to take advantage of these desirable structures. Consider the following potential competitors:

Other birds

Species such as house sparrows and starlings may attempt to invade the nest boxes, displacing the screech owls. Regular monitoring and cleaning can help deter these unwanted visitors.

Squirrels and raccoons

These crafty mammals are known to exploit nest boxes for their own purposes. Installing predator guards or barriers can help prevent access to the nest boxes.

Attracting Screech Owls to your yard with a nest box

Maintaining Nest Boxes

Proper maintenance of nest boxes is necessary to ensure their effectiveness and longevity. Regular cleaning and inspection are essential for the health and safety of screech owls.

Regular cleaning

Nest boxes should be cleaned annually, preferably during late winter or early spring before the breeding season begins. Remove any old nesting materials, debris, and parasites. Be sure to wear protective gloves and masks when handling the materials to avoid any potential health risks.

Replacing wood shavings

After cleaning the nest box, replenish it with fresh wood shavings or chips to provide a comfortable nesting substrate for the owls.

Checking for damage

Inspect the nest boxes for any signs of wear, damage, or deterioration. Repair or replace any parts as necessary to maintain the structure’s integrity.

Attracting Screech Owls through Habitat Enhancement

In addition to providing nest boxes, enhancing the surrounding habitat can further attract screech owls to your yard. Consider the following habitat enhancements:

Provide suitable perches

Screech owls prefer perching and hunting from elevated locations. Install tall, sturdy perches such as dead trees or posts to give the owls a vantage point to survey their surroundings.

Plant native trees and shrubs

Planting native trees and shrubs provides a natural food source for insects and small mammals, which in turn attracts screech owls. Native plants also promote a healthy ecosystem and biodiversity.

Create a water source

Adding a bird bath or small pond to your yard provides a vital source of freshwater for screech owls. Ensure that the water is clean and refreshed regularly to maintain its appeal.

Attracting Screech Owls to your yard with a nest box

Signs of Screech Owl Presence

Once you have attracted screech owls to your yard, it can be exciting to observe their presence. Look out for the following signs:

Identifying owl calls

Screech owls communicate through a variety of vocalizations. Take note of their distinctive calls, which can include trills, whinnies, and soft hoots. Identifying these calls will help confirm their presence.

Scat and pellet observation

Screech owls regurgitate pellets containing indigestible materials such as bones, feathers, and fur. Look for these pellets on the ground or near the entrance of the nest box. Additionally, you may come across owl droppings, often referred to as “scat,” which can provide further evidence of their presence.


Attracting screech owls to your yard not only offers a unique and rewarding experience but also contributes to the conservation of these remarkable birds. By providing the basic requirements of food, water, shelter, and nesting spots, along with the installation of appropriately designed nest boxes, you can create a welcoming environment for screech owls. Maintaining the nest boxes, enhancing the habitat, and being aware of signs of screech owl presence are essential steps in enjoying the benefits of attracting these captivating creatures. So, get ready to welcome screech owls to your yard and witness their fascinating behaviors up close!

Attracting Screech Owls to your yard with a nest box

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