The Barred Owls

In August 1992 we moved into our very rural home. Located on 10 acres surrounded some other homes and thousands of acres of cow pastures and orange groves we started seeing wildlife before our new home was even finished. The red-shouldered hawks were the first to notice our activity. They had several nest trees on the property and made noisy visits to them daily. During the long construction process we had witnessed the hawks building a nest. They had a successful clutch.

Subsequently that same hawks nest was used by a pair of barred owls. We watch with interest as these secretive owls were suddenly visible. When the owlets hatched and started moving about they soon plummeted to the ground. They survived the fall, but they were no where near the age to leave the nest. We scooped them up and found a wicker basket to attach to a tree. The owls seemed excited, but did not attack us (we were lucky.) This basket idea was not successful. And those owlets did not make it.

It was at this point (APPROX 1993) we started researching owl boxes and created owl-box #1. Our design was a very simple birdhouse with an 8 inch hole. We have refined that design, but it did the job for a couple years. It did take years for the owls to notice and start using the box. It was cedar with a solid roof. Later designs have a clear plastic roof.

The owls start selecting a nest site late in the year. If they are returning to the same spot they can start visiting it in September. We have recorded as frequently as one visit per day over a three month period. We consider this part of the nesting season even though the actual egg sitting usually starts in late December to mid-January.

Spreadsheet showing hatch dates for owlwatch nest box.

96/97 two owlets (maybe our first year ) in Box #1.

In 1996 the owls found our box. I think it was the squirrels moving in that made the owls first notice the box. It was not to much later the owls moved in. This box was located about 90 feet from our porch and we totally enjoyed our first glimpses into the family lives of barred owls.

97/98 two owlets Box #1

During the 1997/98 season the original box was again used. Two owlets were successfully reared.

99/01 new box in woods Box #2 (never used)

The original box was taken over by bees, so I built a new box deeper in the woods. This box was rejected by the owls.

01/02 Owls start in hawks nest, one owlet in Home Depot Whiskey barrel planter.

We have several hawks nest, and it is common for owls to use abandon nests. The owls had a single owlet this year. As soon as it was big enough, it walked too close to the edge and fell to the ground. We anticipated this and had a Home Depot whiskey barrel planter at the ready. The day it fell, I mounted the planter on the side of the same tree. The parents were not happy with my intervention. After I returned to my home, the parents took up their parental duties as if nothing had happened.

02/03 two owlets in HD planter

The owls choose to use the planter I had erected in 2002. They had two owlets that seemed to enjoy standing on the planter rim. Plenty of perch room.

03/04 Yahoogroups list starts in Jan of 04 / First year in Box #3 / 2 Owlets

Back in approximately 2002 I had erected a box within 30 feet of the second floor screened porch. I suspect it was too close and it would never be used by the owls. The owls choose to use this 'up close' box in the winter of 2004. It was great fun watching the two owlets and their parents from up close.

04/05 1 dud egg

The 'Up Close' box was selected again. This was the winter of 2004. We had been experiencing drought, floods and several hurricanes. The echo system was stressed and so were the owls. She laid one egg that failed to hatch. She spent sixty days, double the normal time, and then reluctantly flew off.

05/06 new box (same location)

Built a new box for the 'up close' position. This box included an overhead & egg level view. Again this year she only laid one egg, this one also resulted in no owlets.

The 'thing' below is a 5.6 gig wireless audio transmitter. We want to hear the owlets even before they hatch.

06/07 two owlets - replaced floor

Again the owls choose the box closest to the screen porch. This year we were able to watch and record using the two 'in box' cameras and the external view. They had two owlets and all went well.

The new floor was cross hatched and had trim, to keep the eggs away from the walls.

07/08 new cameras

Same box was chosen by the owls. They had two owlets and a successful year.

(ideas for next year, 1) removable roof, 2) better ventilation, 3) ant resistant cedar wood chips 4) move perch up, closer to opening)

08/09 Two new Owlets

Same box, Lots of good pictures, no major issues.
In the post season we installed coax & power that runs part of the way. Hope to use it next year.
Owlets did not spend much time on perch.

09/10 Box Mods
Added coax from box to house.
Added a wired tv camera, above hole.
Added a microphone