Description

Adapted for silent nocturnal hunting, owls are seldom seen during the day and leave behind remains of their nightly kill as indication of their presence. Roughly 19 species of owls live throughout the contiguous Unites States where they come into conflict with humans when nesting in unwanted places or targeting pets and small livestock as food. The most widespread species of owls include the great horned owl and the barn owl, which are largely beneficial creatures but have the capacity to become nuisances.

Appearance

Owls come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from the 5 to 6 inch average length of tiny elf owls to the imposing 25 to 30 inch size of great horned owls. Most owls have patterns in their plumage that help them blend in with their environment. Great horned owls have mottled brown feathers that grow white beneath their wings, large yellow eyes, and plumicorns atop their heads, which resemble a pair of horns. Barn owls, on the other hand, have white or light gray plumage on their faces and breasts and brown wing feathers mottled with gray spots. They have heart-shaped faces with a pair of strikingly dark eyes. Their long, soft feathers allow them to glide noiselessly through the air.

Habitat

Forests are the preferred habitat of most owls. They like to make nests in tree cavities or usurp the nests of other creatures. Barn owls are unique in the sense that they are not as wary of humans as other species and will make their nests in barn lofts or atop ornamental palm trees. Both barn owls and great horned owls like to hunt for small animals in open fields at night and nest where they can conveniently find food.

Entry

Are owls known to enter homes or yards?
The only type of owl that may enter buildings is the barn owl, as they like to make their nests in the lofty rafters of barns and unused attics. Yards and fields where small animals are raised attract the nocturnal birds, and farmers who keep free-range chickens, rabbits, or other small creatures may experience overnight losses. Great horned owls are most notorious for such behavior and even go after pets like house cats and small dogs. Barn owls typically prefer to stick to small rodents such as rats, mice, voles, and squirrels.

Damage

Do owls harm people or property?
Great horned owls are known to attack people who stumble too close to nests housing young chicks or eggs, but owls generally do not attack or prey upon humans. Other than their consumption of small livestock and pets, owls do no harm to property. In most cases, the presence of owls is considered extremely beneficial to humans as they keep rodent populations in check.

Control and Safety

Keeping predatory owls away from livestock can be as simple as providing shelter for chickens, rabbits, or other creatures to gather in at night. Great horned owls generally make only one kill per night, which gives farmers time to make habitat modifications before losses are significant. Clearing trees and potential perches within 100 yards of animal enclosures and taking measures to frighten the birds away, such as erecting scarecrows, may prove effective, as well.

Trapping and Removal

Great horned owls and barn owls can cause serious damage to hands and arms with their talons and should never be handled except by a trained expert. If problematic owl populations threaten the safety of humans and pets, contact Critter Control technicians. Our specialists are trained in the safe and humane removal of the birds.