Screech Owl House Plans: How to Build a Screech Owl Box
Give a Screech Owl a Home
Screech owls are year round residents in nearly every state across the country. They primarily inhabit woodlands, but they are also commonly found in suburban and urban areas. They are one of the smallest owls in North American, standing about 10 inches tall with a wingspan up to 24 inches across.
Nighttime hunters, screech owls feed on rodents and other small mammals, insects and small birds. They swallow small prey animals whole, and tear larger victims into pieces. The bits of bone, teeth, fur and feathers that cannot be digested are expelled as 'owl pellets' that often accumulate under their roosting spots. Finding a pile of pellets at the base of tree is a good sign that there is an owl nearby.
Screech owls like to nest in abandoned woodpecker holes or the natural cavities in dead trees. They are most active during the fall and winter breeding season, as they search for a mate and place to nest. Like many birds that rely on tree cavities for nesting sites, habitat loss is making it harder for screech owls to find suitable nesting sites. Fortunately, screech owls will readily move into a birdhouse to raise their young - so long as the nest box is build to meet their specific needs. This nesting box is sized to attract screech owls, and it is an easy project to make from a pine or cedar board.
Photos and diagrams by the author
How to Build a Screech Owl Nest Box
The Cutting List
- Front (A) 9-1/2"W x 16"L
- Back (B) 11-1/2"W x 24"L
- Sides (C) 8"W x 19-1/2"L (Qty = 2)
- Roof (D) 11-1/2"W x 12"L
- Bottom (E) 8"W x 8"L
The sides (part C) are cut on approximately a 30 degree angle to create the slope for attaching the roof. From one edge, measure up 19-1/4" up one side of the board and make a mark. From the same end, measure up 15-3/4" along the other edge and make another mark. Using a ruler or straight edge, draw a line across the board to connect the marks. Cut along the line to create an angled side piece. The sides are 1/4" shorter than front (part A). When aligned from the bottom edges and joined together, the shorter sides create a 1/4 gap under the roof line for air circulation.
Cut a 30 degree bevel across the top of the front section (part A), to match the slope of the roof and sides.
Layout and the drill the 3" entrance hole in the front (part A). Measure up 12" from the bottom edge, centering the entrance hole across the width of the front section. A hole saw attachment to a drill makes a clean cut, or use a jig saw to rough out the opening.
Cut a 30 degree bevel across the back edge of the roof (part D). The bevel matches the angled sides, and allows the roof to fit snugly against the back (part B). Attach the roof to the back, side and front sections.
Cut each corner of the bottom section (part E) at a 45 degree angle, creating a small drainage gap. Drill four or five additional 1/4" holes, spaced evenly in the bottom section for additional drainage. Attach the back and side assembly to the bottom section with nails or screws.
Some Assembly Required
Use weather resistant screws or nails to attach one side (part C) to the front (part A). This is the fixed side, while the other side is hinged to allow access to the finished nest box for periodic cleaning. Attach the bottom (part E) to the sub-assembly.
Position the partially assembled nest box to the back (part B), leaving space both above and below the nest box assemble for mounting the finished box to a tree or pole. Attach the back to the nest box assembly with nails or screws.
Line up the remaining side (part C). To create a hinge, secure the side with one nail or screw driven into each edge -- one through the front (part A) and one through the back (part B) to form a pivot point. Position the hinge screws directly across from each other, enabling the door to open easily. Drill and countersink a screw hole along the center of the bottom edge for a single short screw to secure the door, yet allow easy access for cleaning.
Drill a 3" hole into the center of the entrance guard (part F). Round off the edges with sandpaper, or use a round over bit to create a finished edge. I like to attach the entrance guard on a bias to create a diamond shaped entrance.
Screech Owl Nest Box Plans
Location, Location, Location
Hanging the nest box: Add 1" to 2" of pine shavings to the bottom of the finished nesting box. Unlike many nesting birds, screech owls do not bring materials into the box for building their nests, and a layer of pine shavings will help to protect the eggs. Do not use sawdust or cedar shavings.
Mount the nesting box between 10' to 30' above the ground. Screech owls are tolerant of human activity, but are known to defend their nests so it's best to place the nesting box in a tree or pole where it can be seen yet is set back away from paths and walkways.
How do you know if there are screech owls in your neighborhood? Since they are most active at night, these little owls are heard more often than they are seen. Their call is distinctive, though it sounds more like a trilling whistle than a screech. If you hear their call, there is a good chance that a screech owl will find the nest box that you put out for them.
Hear a Screech Owl's Call
Simple Cleat Hanging System
Hanging a heavy birdhouse can be awkward, especially if you are standing on a ladder to reach up on to a tree. This simple cleat makes it easier -- and safer-- to hang projects such as this owl nesting box, birdhouses and feeders, window boxes and similar projects.
The cleats are made by ripping a piece of stock at a 45 degree angle. Start with a piece of wood at least four inches wide, and slight shorter than the width of the feeder. When ripped at a 45 degree bevel, a 4 inch wide piece of stock will yield two mirror image cleats approximately 2 " on the wide side. Tilt the table saw blade to 45 degrees, then set the fence to 2 " from the blade to rip the stock into two mirror image pieces, each with a 45 degree bevel cut along one edge.
One piece is attached to the back of the project with the 45 degree angle of the cleat pointing downward and forming an inverted "V" between the back of the feeder and the outside surface of the cleat.Attach the second piece where you want to hang the feeder, this time with the "V" of the cleat facing upward. Use weather resistant screws, and make sure the cleat is level. When fitted together, the two 45 degree "V"s from each piece lock together to securely hold the feeder in place.
Adding a filler strip along the bottom edge of the feeder below the cleat on the backside will hold the feeder level upright and plumb. Cut the filler strip to the same thickness as the cleats.
Have you ever seen an Owl?
Baby Screech Owl Video
These orphaned Screech Owls are being weighed in WildCare's Wildlife Hospital. They will stay in care until they're old enough to be released back into the wild. Orphaned birds like these are always raised with others of their own species and contact with humans is kept to an absolute minimum. These little owls are gaining weight and soon will be ready for release!
Vacancy: Screech Owls Wanted
© 2011 Anthony Altorenna