Of the 19 species of owls in the U.S., barn and great horned owls cause the most problems for property owners. These birds vary in size and appearance, though all owls can be identified by their unusual adaptations. Since their large eyes cannot rotate to follow moving objects, owls are able to turn their heads up to 270 degrees. Designed for stealth and power, they have wide wings, lightweight bodies, and sharp talons. Differences in plumage help to identify species. With fuzzy ear tufts and dappled brown feathers, the great horned owl is easy to distinguish from the buff-colored barn owl and their white, heart-shaped faces.
Habitat & Identification
Fields, yards, and outbuildings infested with rodents are attractive to owls. Most varieties nest in trees or rock ledges, though barn owls often choose haylofts, sheds, or unused attics. These nocturnal birds tend to stick to their roosts most of the day, so similar-looking birds seen flying regularly during the daytime are most likely hawks. Using only a carcass as evidence, it can be difficult to tell an owl's kill from a coyote's or raccoon's. Since owls and hawks cannot fully digest their prey, finding small pellets of compacted bones, fur, and teeth is a good sign that birds of prey are hunting in the area.
Problems & Damage
Attracting insects and creating odors with the carcasses, pellets, and feces they leave behind, owls can be unwelcome guests around homes and yards. While they provide a natural alternative to chemical rodent control, their tendency to aggressively defend their nests and prey on small household pets, livestock, and poultry can make them more trouble than they're worth. As all owls are federally protected, residents who attempt to remove these birds themselves risk more than just injury. For safe and humane solutions to owl problems, turn to the licensed professionals at Critter Control.