So you want more birds in your yard? If you put out water for them and seed, you will likely see a lot of songbirds, sparrows, finches, warblers, etc. I have really noticed how much the birds in my yard depend upon daily fresh water in the birdbath in the front and the birdbath in the back. I have seen many wonderful splashing shows in both places. I saw a bird yesterday I have never seen before and am yet to identify. I did get a good look through my binoculars, so it is only a matter of time until I track it down.
There is another bird that would be a welcome visitor – the screech owl – but you can’t attract it with bird seed. This predator will come if there’s adequate shelter that allows it to nest and hunt. It feeds on insects, frogs, lizards, mice and other mammals that live in your yard. It’s even capable of taking prey as large as rabbits or ducks, despite its small size (6 to 9 inches). Screech owls sometimes prey on songbirds, too, (sorry!), but you just have to tell yourself that that is the natural scheme of things, the balance, and it’s worth it to enjoy the presence of these cool little creatures and know that you are supporting the ecosystem. Anything to help me naturally cut down on the squirrel families that live in my yard and strip my pecan trees before the pecans even drop. And a screech owl would definitely discourage rabbits in the yard, which love to eat the garden. I would love to attract screech owls to my yard!
East to West
There are two species of screech owls found in North America, and collectively, they’re found coast-to-coast wherever there are woods. The western species lives west of the Rockies from Mexico to Alaska. It has feathers in shades of gray to camouflage it against tree bark. The eastern screech owl, found east of the Rockies, has both gray and rusty brown color phases. Both species have bright yellow eyes.
Listen for Their Call
Like most owls, screech owls are nocturnal, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see them during the day. And it’s really tough to spot them at night because of their excellent camouflaging and how silently they can fly through the night. If you learn their call, your chances of spotting one increases. Their most common call isn’t the screech as you’d expect, but a rather quiet whinnying sound, almost like that of a horse, starting high and descending into lower notes. Visit allaboutbirds.org to hear several audio samples from both species.
Give them Shelter
A nesting box gives screech owls a place to raise their young and also helps to attract them to your yard. These birds are attracted to patches of trees for nesting, protection from predators, and to hunt. So, growing mature trees is one step toward screech owls in your yard. Even busy cities with trees host screech owls. Nesting boxes can be purchased from bird supply stores, or build your own. Mount the box on a tree at least 10 feet off the ground, and you might just get lucky enough to host a family this next spring.