Screech owls are reddish brown or gray, with feathered tufts that resemble ears. They're found throughout the United States, from southern Canada down to northern Mexico. Screech owls mate for life, although males may occasionally be untrue to their spouses. They can be on the lookout for a suitable nesting site at any time of the year, but will hatch one clutch of eggs annually, between mid-March and mid-May. Nesting boxes can be placed year-round.
The nesting box for a screech owl is 15 inches deep, with an 8-inch by 8-inch floor. The entrance hole is 3 inches in diameter, placed 12 inches above the floor. Ventilation holes are drilled near the roof; small drainage holes in the bottom will allow any water that gets in the box to dry quickly. Place three inches of non-aromatic wood chips or dry leaves in the bottom of the box.
Screech owls feed on rodents, insects, small birds and frogs. They nest near open areas, such as fields, meadows and roomy yards with large trees, where they can hunt for prey. They require free flying space beneath the tree canopies. The male screech owl will look for a tall tree or pole near the nesting box, where he can tear apart prey to give to the female, for feeding their babies.
Mount the nesting box 15 to 30 feet above the ground, in a shady, south-facing spot. It can be bracketed to a tree trunk or on a telescoping pole equipped with a predator guard. Place the nesting box below the canopy, not in it, creating a clear flight path for the owls. A second tree or pole for the male to sit on should be 15 to 30 feet from the box.
Protecting the Nest
Screech owls will use the box for nesting and as a winter roost. They're territorial and protective of their nesting area. Screech owls may attack people and their pets if they come too close to the nesting area. Avoid putting the nest near homes, play areas and outbuildings to avoid confrontation.
Karen Mihaylo has been a writer since 2009. She has been a professional dog groomer since 1982 and is certified in canine massage therapy. Mihaylo holds an associate degree in human services from Delaware Technical and Community College.