Owls are a wonderful addition to any homestead. They are excellent at hunting mice, which is generally the cat’s job, but if you don’t have a cat, those little critters can really wreak havoc on a place. Squirrels are another animal whose population numbers are controlled by the presence of owls. And, did I mention how cool owls are? They each have distinct and often haunting calls. I love hearing them talk to one another in the woods at night.
There are more than 200 species of owls, worldwide, but only a few species are at home in the backyard. Following are a few of the more common species found around farms and where they might show up.
These beauties prey mainly on mice and other small rodents – often 2 to 3 a night – so they are an excellent asset on a farm or rural homestead.
Barn Owls enjoy a variety of habitats; deserts, marshes, woodlands, strips of forests, grasslands, and even suburbs and cities. They will nest in tree cavities, buildings, and caves. They really aren’t a picky inhabitant! Some even live in Yankee Stadium.
Have a different kind of bird at your house? Here’s how to figure out why that woodpecker is banging on your house.
You’ll find these stocky owls in old forests and swamps with trees. They prefer a forest composed of a combination of evergreens and deciduous trees. Having water nearby is always a plus for them too. Here’s a set of instructions for a Barred Owl nesting house and here’s the sounds of Barred Owls.
Eastern or Western Screech-Owl
The Eastern Screech-Owl prefers to avoid treeless locations. Having a large selection of woods, either evergreen or deciduous, in an urban or rural area is preferred. Being one of the smaller owls, it is able to nest in small cavities in trees. You can always make a nest box and see if you can temp one to live closer to your property.
Western Screech-Owls will live in small cavities and in cacti. Many will choose an old woodpecker nesting place or abandoned magpie nests. These tiny owls will eat moths, beetles, spiders, and other insects, besides preying on mice, voles, and additional small rodents.
Great Horned Owl
When it comes to keeping out unwanted guests, this large owl is very helpful. They tend to chase away raccoons, snakes, crows, and even skunks! Great Horned owls are so large that they prefer to nest on platforms, as opposed to stuffing themselves into tiny houses.
Secondary-growth woodlands is a favorite habitat for most Great Horned owls. They also prefer orchards, swamps, and agricultural areas. Besides having a large selection of woods to live in, these large owls like to have some open areas available for hunting such as croplands, wetlands, pastures, and fields.
Here you can listen to the Sounds of Great Horned Owls.
I’ve seen many of these natural enemy scarecrow owls sitting on fences and posts by backyard gardens.
Check out the calls and see which owls you might already have as neighbors. You may not have to worry about attracting them to your property, but enticing them to stay with a nice little nest box or platform could help you end up with some very beneficial neighbors!
What signs of owls have you scene on your homestead?