Types of Owls
David Mizejewski shared these three beautiful owls with Martha.
These owls are relatively small -- only five or six inches in height -- and can be found all over the country. They can happily live in fairly urban areas as well. Their nesting box resembles a traditional birdhouse shape with a larger hole. Screech owls eat insects and mice, so they are a great natural pest control.
A bit larger than the screech, the barn owl was once one of the most widespread species in North America. But the population of barn owls has suffered in recent years because their natural nesting structures -- old trees with nesting cavities -- have been cut down significantly. As a result, they have started using human structures like barns to roost. They can also use a nesting box, which is similar to the screech owl box, except bigger (20 to 30 inches tall) with a larger hole. These owls eat mostly rodents.
Great Horned Owl
The largest owl in North America, great horned owls don't technically have horns, but instead have tufts of feathers that resemble horns. Unlike the previous two, this species does not nest in cavities; instead, it uses platforms to build its nests with sticks. Typically, they nest in large, old trees such as pine trees. But since development has taken much of this natural nesting habitat away, you can build a nesting platform (recommended to be 14 feet tall). This is a pretty major installation, since the platform requires a lot of support. But the good news is that once the owls establish themselves on the platform, they will likely return to the nest year after year.
How You Can Support Owls
You can always provide them with shelter, simply by building an owl house on your property. But the most important thing is to try to help and preserve their own natural habitat and woodlands. Since a lot of these owls need old-growth forests, trying to keep that habitat available to them is vital, even if it means simply keeping trees available and growing naturally in your own backyard.
David Mizejewski also outlined four elements of wildlife support including: food supply, water supply, shelter, and a place to raise young. These four elements are what the National Wildlife Federation uses in an initiative to encourage people to support their native wildlife. They have been running an annual program since 1973 to certify properties as supporting native wildlife. This year, their goal is to certify 100,000 properties. When David visited Martha's home, he certified Martha's property as a "Certified Backyard Habitat." Martha is the 80,000th to be certified this year. If you're interested in submitting your property for consideration, you can find more information at http://www.nwf.org/backyard.
David Mizejewski and Wild Birds Unlimited. To purchase an owl house, visit www.wbu.com.