Wildlife Areas Provide Vital Owl Nesting

STATE WILDLIFE areas throughout Delaware provide vital nesting boxes for Screech Owls. More than 350 boxes have been placed in the state’s 14 wildlife areas by Delaware’s Divison of Fish and Wildlife biologists.

The boxes are perched high on predator-proof poles at heights from 6 to 30 ft. above the ground in forested wetlands. Although the boxes are primarily for Wood Ducks, they provide the perfect roosting and nesting places for Screech Owls.

According to Wayne Lehman, Fish and Wildlife Regional Manager, the nesting boxes are cleaned annually in January and February before the bird’s breeding season. “Over the years, our conservation efforts to protect Screech Owls by providing safe, nesting and roosting areas have been important,” said Lehman.

“In addition, annual winter cleaning of the nesting boxes provides us with the opportunity to band the owls and record important data that’s used to help assess the overall health of the species. Throughout the year, we ask that the public not open the boxes because owls will abandon nests if disturbed by humans.”

Screech Owls are tiny red to gray birds, about the size of the adult human hand. The nocturnal creatures feed on small mammals, insects, birds, amphibians, such as frogs, and sometimes fish. The owls seldom build their own nests, preferring instead to adopt woodpecker holes, natural cavities in large trees or man-made nesting boxes. Nest predators include Raccoons and Arboreal Black Rat Snakes.

The banding of Screech Owls was initiated in 1993 as an important way to provide scientists with information on the owl’s life span, home range, habitat preferences, nest box fidelity, and migration patterns. The banding serves as a key management tool to access impacts to the species caused by the loss of their natural habitat through increases in land development and man-made infrastructure.

Screech Owls will use Wood Duck boxes or specially-designed Screech Owl nest boxes if placed in a desirable habitat.