How to Attract Owls to Your Property: Proven Strategies and Tips

If you’re looking to attract owls to your property, you’ve come to the right place.

Attracting owls to your property can be a natural form of pest control, but also add a unique touch to your outdoor space.

As you read this article, you’ll learn the preferences and behaviors of various owl species, and how to create a welcoming environment for them.

Key Takeaways

  • Different owl species need different things—understanding these differences is key to attracting them
  • Provide shelter, nesting boxes, and food sources to entice owls and encourage them to stay.
  • Be patient, avoid human intervention, and give owls time to establish themselves in your property.

Quick Owls Facts

  • Owls are nocturnal raptors widely known as birds of prey.
  • There are about 200 species of owl worldwide, and North America is home to a diverse range of these intriguing birds.
  • As primarily nocturnal animals, owls are active during the night and hunt for rodents, insects, and other small wildlife. Their keen senses, such as excellent night vision and sharp hearing, make them efficient predators in the darkness.
  • Most owl species have a strong preference for forested areas, while some, like the Burrowing or Short-eared Owl, can be found in grasslands and prairies.
  • Owls do not build their own nests. Instead, they often use tree cavities, dying trees, or even nesting boxes installed by humans. Providing proper nesting habitats will not only give owls a safe space to raise their young but also increase your chances of attracting them to your property.

Read Next: What Birds Do Owls Eat?

How to Attract Owls to Your Property

barn owl in a field of yellow flowers

Attracting owls to your property is a great way to maintain a natural approach to pest control. Owls are efficient predators that hunt primarily at night, possessing superb night vision and stealth.

On an average night, an owl can eat up to 12 mice, significantly reducing rodent populations.

If you want owls to visit and nest in your property, whether to enjoy their company or get some natural pest control, here are some simple steps you can take.

Give Them a Good Nesting Spot

First and foremost, you’ll need to provide owls with a safe nesting environment.

One way to do this is by installing a nesting box for owls.

It’s good practice to check that the nest box you buy (or build) is specifically designed for the owls native to your region. This will keep them safe from harm, and give them a secure place to not only rest but also nest and raise their young.

Also, make sure the nesting box is placed in a quiet, undisturbed area, and away from any potential threats.

Feed Them

Owls need a consistent food source, so maintaining a backyard with a thriving ecosystem of insects and rodents is crucial.

Keep in mind that owls will not visit bird feeders, so you should concentrate on creating a suitable environment that supports their food sources—like rodents.

Planting native trees and shrubs can help attract insects and little mammals that owls hunt.

Also, rather than using pesticides, opt for natural pest control methods that won’t harm the animals that owls prey on, or the owls themselves. 

The great thing about relying on owls as natural pest control is, you have a great alternative to the use of harmful pesticides and poisons.

Give Them Fresh Water

barred owl bathing in a puddle on the street

Providing a consistent water source is another crucial aspect of attracting owls to your property. You can set up a bird bath or a shallow, clean dish filled with water to help these backyard birds stay hydrated.

Make sure to change the water regularly and keep the area clean to prevent the spread of disease.

Know Which Owls You’re Attracting

Another factor to consider is the type of owls in your area. Listening for owl calls at night can help you determine which species are nearby, so you can attract them.

And of course, different owls have different needs.

Try to create an environment that specifically caters to the nesting and food requirements of those particular owls you want to attract (which we’ll get into in the next section).

Creating an owl-friendly backyard habitat can take some time and effort, but the rewards of attracting these amazing predators to your property are well worth it.

How to Attract Specific Species of Owls

Let’s dive into various types of owls you might find in your area, and how to get them to call your property home.

Barn Owl

two barn owls on a tree stump

The Barn Owl is a widely distributed species known for its distinct heart-shaped face. They prefer open landscapes like grasslands and farmlands and mainly hunt for small mammals, like mice and voles.

How to attract Barn Owls:

  • As the name suggests, the Barn Owl will come to an open barn, shed, or other building to nest. So if you have one that’s not being used, keep it open and accessible to these raptors.
  • Installing a nesting box can also make your backyard more inviting to these owls. If you do, be sure that it’s a nesting box type that’s made for barn owls as they require a certain size and depth for the safety of their owlets.
  • As with other owl species, be sure not to use chemical pest controls if you want to keep these birds safe as they hunt for their prey.

Barred Owl

barred owl looking behind it sitting in a tree

Barred Owls are large owls with dark brown eyes and horizontal barring on their chest. They thrive in mature forests, especially near water sources.

They have a diverse diet, including small mammals, birds, and amphibians.

How to attract Barred Owls:

  • Ensure safety in your area before trying to attract owls like the Barred Owl.
  • These mild-tempered owls face numerous threats and predators, including pets like dogs and cats, raccoons, and even Great Horned Owls. This is why it’s important to factor in things like giving Barred Owls hiding spots in brush piles.

Great Horned Owl

great horned owl sitting in the open window of a barn

The Great Horned Owl is a powerful hunter with horn-like tufts on their head. They can adapt to various habitats, from dense forests to city parks.

Their diet primarily consists of rabbits, rodents, and other birds.

How to Attract Great Horned Owls:

  • Providing shelter for these owls by installing a nest box could encourage them to visit your property.
  • Giving these owls enough space from human activity makes a big difference in whether they stay in your area.
  • Dim or limit outdoor lights at night so as to not disrupt their hunting prey.

Eastern Screech-Owl

eastern screech owl looking out from a hollowed out tree

The Eastern Screech-Owl has a compact size and comes in both gray and reddish-brown color morphs. They prefer mixed woodlands and typically nest in tree cavities.

These types of owls eat insects, small mammals, and even small birds. You can listen to their calls at night to find out if they inhabit your area.

How to attract Screech Owls:

  • Eastern Screech Owls need plenty of cover for hiding, so give them lots of bushes, tree canopies, and dense vegetation.
  • They like deciduous trees like oak, maple, and elm trees to nest in, but they’ll also use owl nesting boxes if you provide them.
  • Consider using a guard to keep predators out of their nests.

Western Screech-Owl

western screech owl looking off to the side and sitting in a field

Western Screech-Owls are similar to their eastern counterparts in size and appearance. They inhabit diverse habitats, such as forests, riparian areas, and suburban areas in the western part of North America.

Western Screech-Owls hunt for insects, small mammals, and other small prey.

How to attract Western Screech Owls:

  • As with the Eastern Screech Owl, the Western Screech Owl needs a safe environment with hiding spots and brushy areas.
  • Western Screech Owls are big fans of owl nesting boxes, so be sure to provide them.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

northern Saw-Whet Owl in a tree

Lastly, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl is a small owl known for its distinctive white facial markings.

They prefer dense coniferous forests and feed mainly on small mammals, including mice and shrews.

How to Attract Northern Saw-Whet Owls:

  • If you want to see Northern Saw-Whet Owls on your property, install a nest box a good while before breeding season, making sure to check that it’s clean and free of other animals that might be trying to use it.
  • Use a guard on a nest box to deter predators from threatening their young.
  • Put wood shavings or chips on the bottom of the nesting box to attract a breeding pair. Also, check out this PDF that includes instructions to build a Saw-Whet Owl nesting box.

Tips for Providing Shelter for Owls

owl peeking out of a blue owl nest box on a tree

Attracting owls to your property involves offering them a safe and comfortable place to nest and raise their young.

One way to provide shelter for native owls is to preserve existing natural structures such as dead trees and tree hollows. These habitats are naturally preferred by cavity-nesting owls, offering them the familiarity and protection they need.

Remember, trees are critical for providing shelter, nesting sites, and hunting perches for owls.

Of course, another effective method is to use nesting boxes designed for owls, also known as owl boxes. Selecting nest boxes suited for the owl species in your region makes it more likely you’ll attract these birds to your backyard.

Placement of Owl Nesting Boxes

When placing nest boxes, make sure they’re positioned in safe, secluded areas where owls can feel comfortable nesting and where their offspring will be protected from predators and other threats.

Additionally, the entrance hole should be of appropriate size for the targeted owl species.

Choosing the right dimensions will help attract the desired species and discourage unwanted tenants such as rodents or other birds.

Cleanliness and Maintenance

Lastly, consider the proper maintenance and cleaning of the nest box or owl box to ensure it remains a safe and appealing shelter for owls in the long term.

This includes timely cleaning and removal of debris, monitoring for unwelcome pests, and ensuring that the box remains intact and secure over time.

If you provide nesting opportunities through natural hollows or nest boxes, you’ll create an inviting home for owls and assist them in thriving within their natural habitat.

Building a Nesting Box

northern saw whet owl in a nesting box looking down

Choosing the Right Material

Want to make a nesting box for owls? You can, as long as you opt for the correct material.

Using untreated wood is recommended as it provides a natural environment for the owls and ensures their safety. Avoid using treated wood or metal, as these can have adverse effects on the bird’s health and comfort.

Cedar or plywood are ideal choices, as they are durable and resistant to decay.

Correct Size and Entrance Hole

The size of the nesting box and the entrance hole are crucial factors for attracting owls. Each owl species has specific requirements for their nesting boxes.

For instance, barn owls prefer a nesting box with dimensions around 10″x18″x24″ and an entrance hole of 6 inches in diameter.

On the other hand, screech owls are comfortable in smaller boxes measuring around 8″x8″x12″ with a 3-inch entrance hole.

Research the owl species in your area to tailor the nesting box according to their needs. Additionally, ensure the opening is shaded from direct sunlight and wind to provide a safe and comfortable space for the owls.

Adding Wood Shavings for Nesting Material

Once you’ve built the nesting box with the correct size and entrance hole, it’s time to add some nesting material inside.

Using wood shavings, such as those from untreated cedar or pine, is an excellent choice for lining the box’s interior. A layer of 2-3 inches is sufficient to provide the owls with a comfortable space to nest and raise their young.

Make sure to avoid using processed materials like sawdust or treated wood shavings, as these can be harmful to the birds.

Do remember to regularly check and maintain the nesting box to ensure it remains an attractive and secure shelter for the owls year after year.

Choosing the Right Location for Your Owl Box

owl nesting box mounted on a birch tree in the woods

Mounting on Poles or Trees

When deciding on the right location for your owl box, consider the placement options. You can mount the box on a sturdy pole or a large tree.

Smaller owl species, which are more likely to be found in yards and gardens, may use large nest boxes positioned 12-30 feet above the ground on a sturdy tree source.

If you’re placing a barn owl nest box, install it at least 15-20 feet high, with the opening shaded from the sun and wind source.

Considering Predators and Starlings

Before you pick a location for your owl box, one thing to think about is potential predators and invasive species.

Placing a baffle on the pole will help protect the owl box from cats, raccoons, and other predators source.

When it comes to European Starlings, a non-native invasive species found in the United States, make sure to choose a small entrance hole size for your owl box to deter them from taking over the nesting site source.

Proximity to Hunting Areas

Location plays a significant role in attracting owls to your property.

Install the owl box in an area that provides nearby access to hunting grounds with ample prey, such as voles and mice. Quite simply because owls are more likely to choose a nesting site where they can hunt efficiently without having to travel far source.

Of course, analyze your landscape and select the most appropriate spot considering the owl’s needs and habits.

Tips for Giving Owls Good Food and Hunting

barn owl swooping down on prey

  • Grow taller grass: One key aspect to focus on is the availability of prey items such as mice, rodents, voles, and gophers. Owls primarily hunt these small mammals for sustenance, so encouraging the presence of these prey animals is crucial. This can be achieved by allowing grass to grow taller in certain areas, as it creates a perfect hiding place for these small mammals.
  • Plant native plants: In addition to grass, you can also plant native vegetation to further enhance the habitat for these prey animals. This will not only provide cover for them, but can also attract insects that the prey animals feed on.
  • Go all natural: It is equally important to avoid using pesticides and other harmful chemicals on your property. First of all, these substances can harm or kill the animals that owls feed on, making your property less attractive for hunting. But also, eating poisoned prey can also harm the owls themselves. Opting for natural pest control methods, like encouraging the presence of beneficial insects, will subsequently support a healthy ecosystem for both the prey and the owls themselves.

Providing Water Sources for Owls

black and white photo of an owl in a bird bath with wings outstretched

One crucial aspect of attracting owls to your property is offering a reliable and clean water source.

Consider having a large bird bath on your property as a way to make it more attractive to owls, and read on below for tips on maintaining it.

Setting Up a Bird Bath

A suitable bird bath for owls should be larger and deeper than those typically used by smaller birds.

Owls require deep basins to accommodate their size. To make sure the owls feel safe and welcome, consider the following:

  • Opt for a bird bath with a diameter of at least 2 feet.
  • Ensure the water is 3-4 inches deep to allow owls to bathe and drink comfortably.
  • Place the bird bath near a tree or shrub but maintain open visibility to deter potential predators.

Water Source Maintenance

Proper maintenance of your bird bath is vital for the health and safety of the owls you’re hoping to attract.

A few easy steps you can take include:

  • Regularly clean the bird bath to prevent algae growth and ensure the water stays fresh. Use a soft brush or cloth to remove any build-up without damaging the bath’s surface.
  • Monitor water levels and refill as needed, especially during hot or dry periods.
  • Consider using a heated bird bath during winter months, as a consistent water source may attract owls when nearby sources freeze over.

Caring for Owls on Your Property

burrowing owl hiding in the brush

When trying to bring owls to your property, you’ll want to create a safe space for them.

Here are some helpful tips on doing just that:

  • Be mindful of pets and small animals on your property. Owls might see small pets, such as rabbits or guinea pigs, as potential prey. On the flip side, dogs and cats might chase away owls, or unintentionally injure them. So to keep your pets and the owls safe, make sure they’re housed indoors or in secure, covered enclosures when outside.
  • Create a habitat with minimal threats from other predators. Keep an eye out for potential threats in the area like large birds of prey, other birds like starlings that might kick owls out of their nests, and raccoons that raid owl nests for eggs. If possible, try to limit the presence of these predators to create a safer space for owls to thrive.
  • Create brush piles to provide additional shelter and food sources for owls. Natural features like piles of sticks and brush not only offer protection, but they also encourage an abundance of rodents, the primary food source for owls.

Tips for Avoiding Human Interference

modern house with lights on as the sky darkens to night

Keep a Safe Distance

One of the key factors in attracting owls to your property is to minimize human intervention. This includes maintaining a safe distance from their nesting areas and giving them ample space to hunt.

You can do this by installing bird feeders in areas that are not heavily trafficked by human activity, such as the edge of your property, near local parks, or expand your backyard to mimic a natural hunting environment for owls.

It is also crucial to be respectful of the owls’ activity, especially during their breeding season.

Avoid approaching their nesting areas or attempting to interact with them, as this may disturb their natural behavior. Simply observe and appreciate their presence from a safe distance.

Minimize Artificial Lighting

Owls, being nocturnal, rely on their keen senses and the cover of darkness to hunt and rest. But bright lights can disrupt their natural hunting routines and, ultimately, make the environment less appealing.

To create an owl-friendly environment, ensure that outdoor lights are minimized or turned off completely during the night.

Opt for low-level lighting, motion-activated lights, or timer-controlled lighting systems to minimize any disruption to the owls’ nighttime activities.

These can help ensure that exterior lights are only activated when needed, like when you are outdoors or when visitors arrive.

Reduce Window Collisions

In addition, you may want to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of window collisions for birds, including owls.

Consider installing window decals or other visual barriers to make windows more visible to birds. This can help prevent accidental impacts that may injure or kill the birds.

Be Patient with the Process

Have patience when trying to attract owls to your property. These nocturnal raptors can be elusive, and it may take time for them to trust your property as a safe place to roost and hunt.

Here are some final tips and words of encouragement for you to bear in mind:

  • Creating a welcoming environment is a crucial aspect of attracting owls, but remember that owls are territorial animals. They may take some time to establish their territory and feel comfortable living on or visiting your property. Provide ample perches, nesting areas, and a safe environment, but understand that it might not happen overnight.
  • In addition to being patient with the environment, be open to learning about different owl calls. Familiarize yourself with the local owl species to better understand their needs and habits. Listening to their calls at night, when owls are most active, can help you identify which ones are in your area. You can find owl calls on websites such as All About Birds.
  • Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see or hear owls right away. Being patient with the process is vital to success. Over time, the owls may start to venture closer to your property, curious about the inviting space you’ve created for them. Keep maintaining your property, and monitor any changes in owl activity as you wait.
  • Stay confident in your efforts. Be knowledgeable about owl species in your area, and be clear about your goals when creating an attractive environment for these fascinating birds.


three baby owls standing in a nest

Attracting owls to your property can have huge benefits for both you and the owls.

It’s wise to tweak your process depending on what owl species you’re trying to draw to your backyard, but there are some steps you can take to make your place more inviting to all types of owls:

  • First, ensure that your area is safe for owls and free of potential threats. This is a key step before attempting to attract owls, as their well-being should always be a priority.
  • Next, install a nesting box in a suitable location. This provides shelter and a nesting site that owls will find attractive.
  • Also, provide a steady food source. You can do this by encouraging a natural habitat for prey, such as insects and rodents, and steering clear of chemical pesticides.
  • Listening for owl calls at night is also a helpful way to determine if any owls already reside in your neighborhood. Familiarizing yourself with their calls can not only clue you into their presence but also help you identify the owl species in your area.
  • Lastly, remember that attracting owls may require patience. Perseverance and commitment to providing a welcoming environment for these elusive birds will eventually pay off, and you’ll be thrilled to have these amazing and fierce birds in your backyard.

Happy owling!

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of nesting box should I use to attract owls?

There are various types of nesting boxes suitable for attracting owls to your backyard. The key is choosing the correct size and style for the type of owl you wish to attract.

For example, a screech owl nesting box should have a 3-inch entrance hole and internal dimensions of approximately 8x8x12 inches. For larger owls, such as barn owls, the box should have a 6-inch entrance hole and internal dimensions of about 18x18x24 inches.

Choosing untreated wood and lining the interior of the box with wood shavings can provide a more natural and comfortable environment for the owls.

What food sources can be provided to entice owls?

While owls do not visit bird feeders, you can still provide a steady food source for them by encouraging a healthy ecosystem.

Owls primarily prey on insects, rodents, and other small mammals. Therefore, promoting a habitat that supports these prey species will help attract owls to your backyard.

It can be as simple as planting native trees and shrubs that offer cover and a natural food source for smaller creatures.

Where should I place an owl box for the best results?

Generally, place your owl box 10 to 15 feet high in a tree, ensuring it’s secure and stable. It’s important to position the box away from busy roads, human traffic, and areas with high levels of artificial light.

If possible, place the box in a tree that surrounds a grassy field or an open space, as these settings are usually favored by owls for hunting their prey.

Which trees are favored by owls for nesting?

Owls typically prefer trees that provide good cover and nesting opportunities, such as cavities or dying trees.

Native trees, especially those with dense foliage, are highly favored by owls. Some examples include oak, pine, and willow trees.

Planting a variety of native tree species in your backyard can help create a more friendly environment for owls to nest.

How can I use owl calls to help attract them?

Playing recorded owl calls in your backyard may help attract owls to the area. Choose calls specific to the species you wish to attract, and play them at dusk or nighttime.

It’s important not to overuse calls, as it may cause stress for the owls or disrupt their natural behavior. Use the recordings sparingly and be patient as you try to attract these elusive birds.

Can attracting other birds of prey also help attract owls?

Yes, attracting other birds of prey such as hawks or falcons can indirectly help attract owls to your backyard. These predators help control pest populations, which may create a more appealing environment for owls.

However, try not to intentionally attract competing predators too close to your owl box, as direct competition might discourage owls from nesting in the area.

Keep a balanced ecosystem and focus on providing suitable habitat conditions for the specific owl species you wish to attract.

Watch an Owl Nest Box Installation

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