How to attract barn owls to your property

Whooo, whooo. Do you love that sound? Do think the best commercial ever was an owl trying to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop and bit it after just three licks? Then you are an owl lover. If that is the case, then you really appreciate the majestic beauty of an owl and how special they are.

There is so much to love about an owl that you probably want to have one or two hang out in your backyard. Not only are they fun, barn owls are some of the best (and most natural) forms of rodent control available. If you’d like to get a couple barn owls on your San Diego property, I’ll show you how. 

Barn owl boxes are built for types of birds that the owl falls under, which are predatory. These birds often use cavities in trees left by other birds rather than build their own. Thus, they are known as cavity-nesting birds. Thus, having the right barn owl box can encourage an owl to become a permanent resident in your backyard. With barn owl boxes prevalent in San Diego, it is time to get in on the action.

Where to Put a Barn Owl Box

There is no perfect place to put your box. It is going to be trial and error. Since owls do not necessarily nest where they hunt, you may want to try to overlap the placement somewhere in the middle of the two that will be away from a busy or noisy area. Because owls feast on rodents, placing the box in an area where rodents exist is a good idea. Just be sure not to use any chemicals to attract or harm the rodents, as that would be dangerous for the owl. In addition, you want the box near tree lines, but not too far in since there are other animals that prey on owls in forest.

Placement of boxes should also not be near traffic or too low since owls are nocturnal. Trucks and trains will pose an imminent danger to any owl. Also, keep boxes away from utility poles. Keep these keys in mind when placing your box.

  • Place boxes 100 to 200 yards apart
  • Face open area
  • Mount away from frequent human activity
  • Place back of box to prevailing winds, with the entrance hole likely pointing northeast in our area
  • Not too close to dense tree areas
  • Away from roads and power lines
  • Mount box level to the ground

Types of Owls in San Diego

Now that your box is set up, it is time to get an idea of what owls are common to San Diego. Below is a list of the more common visitors with a little information about each. Learn more detail about each here.

Flammulated Owl

This type of owl is common to the pine forest of the Western United States. But you would be hard-pressed to find many around San Diego. They migrate south during a certain time of the year, but there have only been three occurrences of seeing them in San Diego during this migration.

Western Screech Owl

A common visitor to San Diego’s Oak Woodlands, this owl is not usually spotted in San Diego proper. It loves a grove of mature coast live oaks.

Great Horned Owl

This is the area’s most widespread owl. It is a year-round resident in all parts of the county.

Burrowing Owl

San Diego County has very few burrowing owls. It lives mainly in grassland and open scrub. This bird was once common here, but it is now very hard to find.

Spotted Owl

This owl lives year-round in San Diego. It can be found in the shady woodlands of oaks and conifers on steep to moderate slopes.

Long-eared Owl

During breeding season, this owl makes a noise you cannot miss. You will find it in closed canopies, nearby open habitats for foraging, and near abandoned raptor and corvid nests.

Short-eared Owl

This owl lives in marshes and grassland. It visits San Diego mostly in the winter. You can find it around San Diego Bay and Tijuana River estuary in small numbers.

Northern Saw-whet Owl

This owl is visible in Coniferous woodland mostly. You may find it in pure oak woodland around Palomar Mountain on occasion. It is also a year-round resident of the county, but it is mostly nocturnal and hard to see.

Types of Barn Owl Boxes to Buy in San Diego

Now that you know where to place the box and which owls to expect, it is time to figure out what box to buy. When it comes to barn owl boxes, you have several choices.

1. The first is to build your own. For that, you will need wood, nails, rope, and some other material. You can build several different types of boxes. Each box has its own dimensions and instructions. You can learn more about building your own box, including diagrams here.

If you do not want to build one, you can buy one. The best place to get a barn owl box (and I might be a bit biased) is right here. Our boxes are handcrafted right here in San Diego, made from Mahogany and Oak, and come with wireless infrared cameras.

Our boxes work, in fact our Manor is the same owl box that housed the famous Molly and McGee for many years.

You can mount them in a tree, or we can come by your property and mount one with a pole (give us a call for details). Your environment will help dictate which one is right for you. If, for example, you have limited access to trees, a barn owl box on a pole makes sense.

Owls are timeless and majestic, and they are plentiful in San Diego County. With the right box in the right place, you can have an owl as a neighbor for a long time to come and enjoy figuring out who is who.