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Natural Highlights: Owl Boxes

The Shelby County School system has provided several different types of nest boxes for local owl species with the goal of engaging local students with the wildlife which lives right here in the Mid-South.  Wolf River Conservancy staff and volunteers, along with Tennessee Ornithological Society (TOS) members, are coordinating the installation of the nest boxes in appropriate habitat along the Wolf River Greenway.  Jim Waldron with TOS has spent countless hours over the years installing hundreds of nest boxes of all kinds in Shelby and Fayette counties, and we are once again very grateful for his guidance and expertise.  We also want to recognize Wild Birds Unlimited of Memphis which supplied the high-quality Barn, Barred, and Screech Owl boxes purchased by Shelby County Schools.  If all goes well, students will one day be able to observe the activities of nesting owls via a nest cam over the internet, in addition to field observations.

There are four owl species - Great Horned, Barn, Barred, and Eastern Screech Owls - which raise their young in this area.  Great Horned Owls and Barred Owls sometimes use nests built in trees by hawks or other animals, but they will also use cavities.  Nest boxes can help to replace the natural cavities found in old trees, which are less abundant in urban areas. Barn Owls require the largest boxes, Barred Owl boxes aren't far behind, and installation of a heavy nest box high up in a tree can be quite a challenge.  Most important is placing a nest box in a location that will increase its chances of attracting a pair of owls, i.e., one that provides appropriate habitat and space for supporting hungry nestlings. 

Now is the time to install an owl box of your own, because our owl species begin nesting as early as January.  There are owl boxes available for purchase locally or online, and owl box plans for those who want to build their own.  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Nestwatch website is an excellent resource which provides plans for all cavity-nesting bird species in the United States, as well as details on habitat and proper placement.

Use the following links for more information on Mid-South owls and owl boxes:

https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/birds/eastern-screech-owl/

https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/birds/barred-owl/

https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/birds/barn-owl/

https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/birds/great-horned-owl/

 

 

Posted by Cathy Justis at 9:52 AM