Nest boxes for Tawny Owls

 

Introduction and Index

Originally planned as just an article, Nestboxes for Tawny Owls rapidly grew into a section. This was partly a reaction to the poor design and shockingly small side dimensions of many boxes sold here in the UK, which left me feeling that it should be possible to come up with something better. So, these pages take a thorough look at all aspects of making (or buying) and putting up a nest box for tawnies. These owls are in need of boxes as woodland and tree management practices mean that their traditional nesting sites in holes in trees are hard to come by, and open nests are hazardous for chicks.

This is a surprisingly complicated — even contentious — topic and others may have different views or advice from my own. Helpful comments and suggestions for additions or modifications would be welcome. Email to raham [at] btinternet [dot] com.

(Section written Dec 06-Feb 07. Last update Apr 09)

 

Related reading on this site

No Homes for Tawny Owls -- Why cavity nest sites don't form

Why Tawny Owl Chicks Fall from Open Nests

Pages 1 and 2: Before Starting

A checklist of things to consider before putting up a nestbox. Introduces some topics that are covered in more detail in later pages.

Page 3: Types of Nestbox

The two types of nestbox sold here in the UK and their disadvantages.

(Boxes sold on the internet are listed on Page 9: Commercial box review, and the two officially sanctioned designs get further critical consideration on Page 11: Approved designs.)

Page 4: Making Your Own

As it's difficult to recommend many of the commercial boxes, this page gives some plans for better boxes that can be made by someone with moderate carpentry skills. One is a simple box design like the one at left, and two others are based on the American letterbox for Barred Owls and the French nichoir balcon. The nichoir balcon, or balcony box, can be modified for use in areas where there are predators like martens, and this is given as a fourth design. All provide a kinder nesting site than the cramped British boxes.

Current favourite: the Dutch-design letterbox. See below.

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Page 4.3: Making Your Own — the Dutch Letterbox

I've made two of these letterboxes for use in our local wood. See this page for construction details and pics showing how we put one up in its tree.

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Page 5: Tree Attachment Methods

A run through some of the methods used to attach heavy boxes to trees.

Page 6: Putting it Up

Not always as easy as it might seem. Hopefully this page will have you prepared for most of the surprises.

Page 7: Modifying a Chimney Box

Page discontinued as this is a rather pointless exercise. Skip and go to Adding a Camera on page 8.

Page 8: Adding a Cameraupdated

Who wouldn't want to see what goes on inside their nestbox? Cameras and lights are not expensive and let you see a great deal without disturbing the owls. Cable lengths up to 100 m can be used. Now updated using our experience from the 2008 nesting season.

Page 9: A look at Boxes for Sale in the UK

Boxes I've found on sale over the internet in the UK. Almost all are based on the tube design, and they are listed in order of side dimensions. Many ignore the dimensions recommended by the RSPB and BTO and are depressingly cramped for a female tawny and her brood.

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Page 9.1: Dutch letterbox from Valley Wildlife, Lancs

Here's what I think is the best Tawny Owl nest box on the market today. Like all good things it doesn't come cheap, but it's well thought out, strongly made, has a generous ledge (much safer for the chicks), and will last for years and years. We are using one ourselves.

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Page 10: Boxes Others are Using

Mainly for fun, and includes Barred Owl boxes from the US, which are a good design and should be adopted for Tawny Owls here in the UK. Look at this page to get more ideas if you think of designing your own.

Page 11: Approved Designs, especially in the UK

A critical look at the two designs published by the RSPB and BTO, which many British manufacturers claim to base their boxes on. Includes a comparison with what's on offer in France, the USA and Canada.

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Other People's Boxes

This is a section for boxes people have made and put up for their own owls.

Next page: First things

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