How To Attract Owls

Owls are fascinating animals that are fun to observe in your backyard, but can actually have many benefits for your garden’s ecosystem. There are a few different reasons why you might want to attract owls into your garden.

However, since owls are largely nocturnal, we as humans don’t get the opportunity to observe their behavior very often, which means that most of us don’t know the best way to attract them. 

If you’d like to learn how to attract owls to your garden, you’re in the right place. Today, we’re going to be giving you some tips on encouraging owls to approach your home and hopefully stick around!

Why attract owls?

Maybe you’re reading this article because you just love owls and would like to see more of them in your garden. That’s a totally valid reason, but if that’s the case, you might also be interested to know that owls can have other benefits for your backyard. 

The key to the usefulness of most backyard owls (including the Barred Owl, Great-horned Owl, Barn Owl, Western-screech Owl and Eastern-screech Owl) is their nocturnal nature. Because they sleep during the day, other birds that are active during daytime owls won’t be threatened.

However, populations of other animals that roam at night and may be a threat to your garden can be controlled by backyard owls. If you’ve noticed a lot of rodents in your garden, particularly at night, attracting more owls to your area is an effective way to control the spread of these populations. 

Photo by Jean van der Meulen

How to attract owls 

1. Provide necessities

Like us, owls need a few basic necessities in order to survive. If you want owls to stay in your garden or backyard long term, you’ll need to make sure that these necessities are always available. 

Food And Water 

First and foremost, of course, owls need food and water. Unfortunately, if you already have bird feeders in your garden, these won’t be sufficient because owls won’t eat from these. Therefore, you’ll need to find a way to make your yard hospitable to natural sources of food for the owls. 

Most owls prey on small rodents including voles, mice, and gophers. You can attract these animals into your yard by putting down seeds and letting your grass grow out. Hopefully, the owls should then follow. 

When the weather is hot, it’s also a good idea to leave out a bird bath. Make sure the bird bath is deep because owls typically won’t drink from shallow bird baths. 

Nesting And Shelter 

If you’ve ever looked at pictures of owls, you will probably have seen some owls nesting in hollow trees. To attract owls into your garden, it’s best to have plenty of large trees with dense foliage so that the owls can have shelter and feel safe sleeping in the daytime.  

Photo by Imogen Warren

If you don’t have a hollow tree in your yard, try providing a large-sized nesting box and securing it around 15 feet off the ground. If you have a barn or an abandoned shed, that’s even better. Put up your nesting boxes at the beginning of the year and check on them regularly to make sure no other animals or insects are nesting there.

2. Give the owls somewhere to perch

It can be tempting to cut down dead trees and bare branches to maintain the appearance of your yard, but these are great perching spots for owls, so leave them intact if you can.

Photo by Munendra Kumar

3. Don’t let your pets outside at night 

If you have a cat or dog, make sure they stay inside at nighttime for the safety of both your pet and the owls. 

4. Turn off outdoor lighting 

If you have floodlights or motion sensor lights in your yard, turn these off. Owls like to hunt in the dark because this is when their eyesight works best, so if your yard is too bright, they won’t stick around. 

Photo by pixabay

How NOT to attract owls 

If you do all of the things listed above, you have a good chance of attracting owls into your yard. However, here are some things you should NOT do if you want to attract owls:

1. Use recorded owl calls

You may have heard that some people use recorded owl calls to attract owls. This is sometimes shown on nature programs. However, the use of owl calls should only be done by experts and should not be done in a small environment such as your garden. 

The calls can be stressful or distracting for owls, and the calls might even attract other predators to your garden, which is not ideal.

So, seek advice before using this method.

2. Leaving out meat or caged mice 

Taking steps to attract small rodents to your garden for the owls is fine. However, you should not let out any cage mice, leave out dead prey, or provide chunks of meat to attract owls.

Owls won’t touch dead prey and releasing cage mice into the wild is just cruel.

Photo by Imogen Warren

3. Putting up netting 

Many people have nets in their gardens for playing basketball or hockey, but these should be taken down so owls don’t get caught. The same goes for decorations such as garlands. 

It should go without saying that putting up nets around the perimeter of your garden to try and keep owls in is a terrible idea. The owls are likely to get caught and might get injured or even die in the process. 

Final Thoughts 

Attracting owls to your backyard involves making the outside of your home a hospitable environment for owl prey and leaving out water in the summer as well as providing shelter and nesting spots. 

Make sure to take down any nets in your garden and turn off all outdoor lighting.

Don’t be tempted to use recorded owl calls or leave out dead prey since these methods will be ineffective and even counterproductive.

If you manage to successfully attract owls to your garden or backyard, you’ll get to enjoy the sight of these beautiful birds while knowing that rodent and insect populations will be kept at bay.

Photo by Imogen Warren


Is it good to have owls around your house?

Owls eat hundreds of rodent pests. So, if you don’t have a cat that hunts then owls might be the answer.

Do owls bother humans?

Like all birds, owls will protect their young. If you stray too close to a nest (day or night), then an angry owl may behave aggressively towards you. They are not likely to attack you, although that has been known.

Can owls take my dog?

Larger owls can take smaller dogs. The Great-horned Owl can lift up to 9 pounds, which could be a cat or small dog.

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