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 typically inhabit mature 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 as well as insects and small birds. They swallow small prey animals whole; larger victims are torn 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 often nest in abandoned woodpecker holes or in the natural cavities of dead trees. They are very active during the fall and winter breeding season as they search for mates and places to nest. Like many birds that rely on tree cavities to raise their young, habitat loss makes it harder for screech owls to find suitable nesting sites. Fortunately, they will move into a birdhouse to raise their brood - so long as the nest box is build to meet their specific needs. This birdhouse is sized to attract screech owls, and it is an easy project to make.
How to Build a Screech Owl Nest Box
The Cutting List
The nest box is made from pine. Inexpensive and readily available, pine works well for this project and will last for several seasons. Painting or staining the exterior helps to protect the wood from the elements. Cedar, redwood, certain hardwoods or pieces of salvaged lumber are also good choices for building birdhouses and feeders.
Cut pieces of wood into the following dimensions:
- 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
Step 1 - Sides (part C): The diagonal edges of the side pieces (part C) are cut at approximately 30 degrees to create the angle for attaching the sloped roof as shown in the plans diagram (see below). From the bottom edge of the side piece, measure up 19-1/4" up along one side of the board. Use a pencil to make a mark. From the same end, measure up 15-3/4" along the opposite edge of the side piece and make another mark. Use a ruler or straight edge to draw a line across the board and connect the marks. Cut along the line to create an angled side piece. The sides are 1/4" shorter than front (part A). When the bottom edges are aligned with the bottom section (part E) and attached to the front and back sections, the sides create a 1/4 gap under the roof line for air circulation.
Step 2 - Front (part A): Layout and the drill the 3" entrance hole in the front (part A). Measure up 11" 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 top edge of the front section (part A). The angle at the top of the front section matches the slope of the roof and sides.
Step 3 - Roof (part D): 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.
Step 4 - Floor (part E): Cut off each of the corners of the floor section (part E) at a 45 degree angle to create gaps for airflow and drainage.
Some Assembly Required
Step 5: Use weather resistant screws or nails to attach one side (part C) to the front section (part A). This is the fixed side of the nest box; the opposite side will be hinged to allow access to the box for cleaning.
Step 6: Attach the bottom (part E) to the front and side sub-assembly.
Step 7: Position the partially assembled nest box against the back section (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.
Step 8: The second side is attached with just two screws to create a hinged door for access to the interior of the nest box. The two screws are carefully positioned to form a pivot point for the door to swing open.
Line up the remaining side piece (part C) to the open side of the front/side/back/floor/ assembly. Measure down 1-1/2" from the point where the top of the side piece nearly meets the angle section of the front piece, and secure the side with one nail or screw driven into each edge -- one through the front (part A) into one edge of the side, and one through the back (part B) into the opposite edge to form a pivot point. Position the hinge screws directly across from each other so that the door will open easily. Drill and countersink the holes, and then attach the pieces with a weather-resistant screw.
Drill and countersink a screw hole along the center of the bottom edge of the hinged side piece for a single short screw to secure the door. Removing the screw provides easy access for cleaning.
Step 9: 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
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!
Make a Simple Cleat Hanging System
Hanging a heavy birdhouse can be awkward, especially if you are standing on a ladder to reach up into a tree. This simple cleat makes it easier -- and safer -- to hang projects such as this owl nesting box or other 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 birdhouse or other project. 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. When ripped at a 45 degree bevel, a 4" wide piece of stock will yield two mirror image cleats that are approximately 2" on the wide side.
To make the cleat system, attach one piece to the back of the project with the 45 degree angle of the cleat pointing downward to form an inverted "V" between the back of the project 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 will lock together securely to hold the nest box in place.
Adding a filler strip along the bottom edge of the birdhouse will hold it upright, level and plumb. Cut the filler strip to the same thickness as the cleats.
Vacancy: Screech Owls Wanted
Questions & Answers
Is there a certain direction the box should face? North, South, East, or West?
Owls don't seem to prefer a nest box that faces in any specific direction. We've had occupants in owl houses that face south, east, and west; none of our boxes happened to face north.Helpful 22
Do you paint or stain your birdhouses?
Yes, I like to paint or stain the exterior of my birdhouses. I only paint (or stain) the outside to protect the wood from the elements, leaving the inside of the nest box unpainted for the safety of the baby birds.Helpful 13
Will screech owls scare other birds away?
Screech owls are predators. While they feed mostly on mice, voles and other small animals, they will also prey on small birds. To reduce the chances of an owl attacking the birds at our feeders, the nest boxes are mounted in different areas on our property from the bird feeders. The owls cannot see the feeders from the next boxes.Helpful 10
I’m making an owl box, and it is almost finished. What are the dimensions of the diamond piece that covers the hole?
The exact dimensions of the entrance guard are not critical. I use pieces of 3/4" thick scraps that are large enough to cover the hole, yet fit on the front of the nest box without hanging over the edges. A piece that's 3-3/4" to 4" square should work.Helpful 8
It’s mid-April in northern Mississippi. Is it too late to hang a screech owl breeding box?
Owls start looking for nesting sites in late winter, however it's never too late to hang a nesting box. It might take a season or two for the birds to find your new owl house so even if the breeding season has passed in your area, the nest box will be ready for next year.Helpful 8
© 2011 Anthony Altorenna