By Dick & Sue Malnory
The Friends of Hagerman are building nest boxes for Screech Owls, Barn Owls and Barred Owls at Hagerman NWR, with materials provided by the Refuge. A total of eight boxes will be mounted on poles by Grayson Collin Electric Cooperative, when the time comes to move power poles in the construction process for the new building - the power company will donate and install the poles, as well as hang the boxes.
This is a big deal - well, the next boxes are big! The Audubon design for the Screech Owl nest box (http://www.audubonmagazine.org/backyard/backyard0201.html) is approximately 9”x 9” x 20” tall, with a 3” diameter entrance hole. The roof slopes, with an overhang on the front side. For the Barn Owl or the Barred Owl, the box design by Norman Watenpaugh, (http://www.scvas.org/pdf/cbrp/BuildingBarnOwlBoxes.pdf) is approximately 17” x 24” x 22” tall, with a sloping roof. The entrance is rectangular, 6” x 8” and there is a perch.
Four Screech Owl boxes and four Barn/Barred Owl boxes are being built. In order for the Barred Owls to use the nest box, those must be placed at least a mile apart, and in a wooded area. The Barn Owl’s territorial size is just the area around the nest box, and their boxes will be placed in open prairie at the Refuge, their preferred habitat. Screech Owls' habitat is at the edge of woods, and their territory, like that of the Barn Owl, is the area around the nest.
Barn and Barred Owl boxes will be placed from 10’ to 20’ off the ground, while Screech Owl boxes can be situated 5’ to 20’ high.
The other owl seen at Hagerman NWR, the Great Horned Owl, is not a cavity nester, but rather takes over the abandoned nest of other birds such as hawks or crows, or even the nest of squirrels.
Visitors to the Refuge will probably not see the owl boxes as they will be placed away from public use area, but be assured that support for the Refuge and the Friends projects is helping to grow the owl population of the area.