Tips For Attracting Owls to An Owl Box

Last year I constructed an owl box for eastern screech owls. I have had no success with the box, however squirrels have been using it recently. I was wondering if anyone had tips for attracting owls to an owl box. Also, I was wondering if it would be a smart idea to let the squirrels use the box so that the young would attract predators such as owls to the area. Tips for attracting other carnivorous species such as hawks would be fine too. Carnivores would be a great natural way to get rid of pests like mice, being that they are natural predators.


Squirrels will fill nest boxes with nesting materials that screech owls don’t like. If you clear it out after the squirrels are done nesting and keep it clear, the owls will be more likely to use it.

Also, I really doubt that you’ll “get rid” of mice in the area, because the owls are going to need a constant food supply. They won’t completely eliminate the mice, just control them a little.


There are a lot of possibilities here. First, if squirrels are using the box then there’s no chance of screech owls taking residence–screech owls are not going to evict those squirrels. Screech owls eat smaller rodents than squirrels during the winter. My birdhouse book suggests taking off the roof to evict squirrels from Barred Owl boxes (the owls will still use the box according to the author), so that might be true for screech owls as well. Second, screech owls occur in low densities—do you know that there’s a pair around your residence? Even if there is, it just takes time for them to find the box. Third (assuming there are owls around), the box dimensions and or placement on the tree or microhabitat may not be to their liking. If you’re really keen on attracting owls then I’d evict the squirrels and put up more boxes using plans from a birdhouse book—that way the owls should have lots of options.

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@mws Can you clarify what you mean by “after the squirrels are done nesting”? We were under the impression that tree squirrels sleep in nests year-round and can reproduce multiple times per year. Maybe that is incorrect. What would be the least disturbing way to evict them, if any? Thanks.

Thank you all for the suggestions. I will try out some of the suggestions.

To evict them undisturbingly, maybe I can block the entrance to the box while it’s not in use so that the squirrels can’t get in. Once they learn that they can’t go in it anymore, maybe they wouldn’t use it once I take off the entrance obstruction. However, because of the high squirrel population in my area, the squirrels will probably discover the entrance again, so I could try that, but I would probably need to think of something else.

I also have to wonder if screech owls are even present. they’re definitely present in my area, and they definitely visit my house, even. I have video footage of them on my security cameras, and I hear them calling with some regularity.

high squirrel densities will certainly discourage them, especially if a suitable nest box is too easily accessible by the squirrels. squirrels definitely have a predatory streak and will raid bird nests. and given the small prey that screech owls go for (even large insects), I don’t think they have many defenses aside from avoidance.

protecting the nest box from the squirrels would be my priority number one. might mean moving the box. probably will mean constructing HUGE baffles above and below the box, along with ensuring the nearby trees are well-trimmed so they can’t jump in.

you could just leave the existing box to the squirrels and put the new owl box elsewhere. you’re not going to “attract” the owls in any way other than offering a well-built box with the features and placement that they like, with excellent habitat nearby so they have access to the resources they need.

Evict them when they don’t have babies, I guess?

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