It is very difficult to ‘attract’ owls to your garden. You can, however, provide an owl-friendly environment that might increase the likelihood of wild owls choosing to live nearby. The are two factors that determine whether an owl will remain in an area : food and nesting availability.
“Owl-Friendly” Rodent Control
By using bird-friendly pesticides to control the insects in your gardens and also by being careful in the manner which we utilize rodenticides, we can try and ensure a safe food supply. Combating rodents with poison, however, puts owls at huge risk. Poisons typically take 12 to 24 hours to take effect; in the meantime they simply slow the rat down, making it easy prey for watching owls. Owls swallow their prey whole, so they do not realize that their normal meal is now toxic for them until it is too late and the poison is already in their system. So, if you want to be ‟owl friendly‟ your alternatives to control rats and mice in your area are basically the use of snap, walk-in or electronic rat traps.
Electronic Rat Killers are a walk-in trap that electrocute the target. They provide a humane and environmentally friendly way of eradicating rodent pests. Simply place your electronic box in an area where you know rodents are active (look for rat droppings), put some bait inside (like a few pellets of dry pet food), turn on the switch and leave the rat-zapper to do its work. When the trap has been triggered a red light on top starts flashing. When you see this light, turn the switch to the OFF position and simply dispose of the dead rodent by tipping the trap above a bin.
The electronic rat killers can then be re-set to catch multiple rats in the same night. In fact Raptor Rescue‟s Ben Hoffman caught seven rats during his first night of action! The boxes are mains and battery powered and are available at the Sanctuary for R359 each.
Project Owl House
We can provide owls with suitable nesting sites in the form of artificial nest boxes. These boxes become substitutes for natural nest sites that are often lost when environments are cultivated. Owl houses vary according to the specific preferences of the indigenous owl species. Before erecting an owl house, it is wise to identify which owl species already reside in your area, or find out which owls are likely to be in your area. The distribution of a species can be obtained from most South African bird books. Look not only at the distribution maps but also the habitat requirements of each owl.
Where To Erect Your Owl House…………….
Generally find a quiet secluded place to erect your owl box. Owls are resolutely faithful to lonely places, which is why their habits have been so often shrouded in mystery. Be especially careful to avoid disturbance in the area at the onset of the breeding season. Secure the box firmly and ensure that the entrance hole does not face the direction of the prevailing winds. The box should preferably face open land and the flight path to the entrance hole should be unhindered. Position a platform or branch at the base of the box or entrance hole so that branching youngsters can clamber out without falling to the ground. The nest box can be installed on a wooden post, or fitted to the side of your house or against a tree. Erecting a box in-crease your chances of attracting owls to your garden or school.
The Sanctuary stocks boxes for Barn Owls and for Spotted Eagle Owls at a cost of R350
If you are a handy man and would like to build your own Barn Owl box, click here:
Nesting Requirements for South African Owl Species
PEARL-SPOTTED OWL : Found in wooded habitats of savannah regions. They nest in the main trunk of trees, often using old woodpecker holes. These holes are 1 to 6 metres off the ground and have a narrow entrance of approximately 5cm in diameter. The woodchip-lined chamber is between 23 and 35cm deep. Breeding season: early summer
AFRICAN SCOPS OWL : Nests in vertical cavities in trees of open, semi-arid woodland. The cavity is 20 40cm deep and is located 3 to 5 metres above the ground. Nest boxes with side entrances have been successfully used. The eggs are laid on a bed of woodchips in early summer
BARRED OWL : Lives in woodland areas in natural cavities and rot holes in tree where branches have broken off. They require an entrance hole of at least 7cm in diameter, so woodpecker holes tend to be too small. The cavities are 15 to 30cm deep and are found at a height of 4 to 6 metres above the ground. Breeding season: early summer
WHITE-FACED OWL : Lives in woodland, savannah and dry thorn-veld habitats. They utilize old nests of other birds that have a minimum flat base of 20cm and that are found between the heights of 2 to 13 metres off the ground. Breeding season: early summer
BARN OWL : Lives in most habitat types (except forests), and will often utilize manmade structures to nest in. They require a safe, semi-enclosed place of at least 30cm in width. Breeding season: early winter
GRASS AND MARSH OWL : Inhabit vlei and grassland areas, nesting, in early winter, on the ground under tufts of rank veld grass.
WOOD OWL : Nests in natural cavities or rot holes in trees of indigenous forest areas. They will sometimes utilize artificial boxes in evergreen forest patches. These cavities need to be 20 to 25cm wide, approximately 25cm deep and have an entrance hole of approximately 11/12cm in diameter. The box should be placed at a height of between 2 and 5 metres above the ground. Breeding season: early summer
SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL : They occur in all different biomes, except forest and desert regions. They nest most commonly on the ground, amongst rocks or under shrubs, or in a wide crotch in a low tree. They make a scrape out of woodchips, leaves or pebbles. Man-made structures and old nest sites are also used, but preferred nest sites are all open. Breeding season: early summer
CAPE EAGLE OWL : Nests on rocky prominences or cliff faces and make scrapes of 28 to 38cm in width. They prefer a scrape that is covered by a ledge or foliage. Breeding season: winter
GIANT EAGLE OWL : Nests in large stick platforms, that are often old eagle nests, at a height of 3 to 15m above the ground. (Like Wahlbergs eagle nests, for example) They do not build or repair the nest, but just make a shallow depression in which to lay their eggs in winter.
PELS FISHING OWL: Is found nesting in low-lying, floodplain forest fringes in large trees close to a river. They use large holes or spacious crotches in trees at a height of 4 to 5 metres above the ground. These nests are between 30 and 40cm in diameter and the hole is ½ to 1 metre in depth. The nest becomes lined with debri, scales and bark.
Breeding season: late summer
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