Great Horned Owl Nest Box

Last Updated on April 22, 2023 by naime

Great horned owls are one of the most majestic birds that can be found in North America. These large and powerful creatures have fascinated avian biologists for centuries, with their unique physical characteristics and impressive hunting abilities. However, finding great horned owl nests can often prove to be a challenging task.

Fortunately, there is a solution: the great horned owl nest box. By providing these magnificent birds with a suitable nesting location, we are able to better protect them from predators and ensure their continued presence in our ecosystems. In this article, we will explore the benefits of using a great horned owl nest box and provide tips on how to construct your own.

The Benefits Of A Great Horned Owl Nest Box

As an ornithologist, I have studied the great horned owl for years. These majestic birds of prey are known for their large size and impressive hunting skills. However, what many people don’t realize is that they also serve a crucial role in controlling rodent populations.

One way to encourage great horned owls to nest in your area is by installing a nest box. This provides them with a safe and secure place to raise their young, away from potential predators on the ground. Additionally, it can help prevent them from nesting in less desirable locations such as utility poles or rooftops.

But the benefits go beyond just providing a home for these fascinating creatures. By attracting great horned owls to your property, you’re helping to maintain a natural balance within the ecosystem. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals like rodents and rabbits, which can cause damage to crops and gardens if left unchecked.

In short, investing in a great horned owl nest box isn’t just beneficial for the owls themselves – it’s an investment in maintaining a healthy and thriving environment for all living things. So why not consider joining me and countless other avian biologists in supporting this important cause?

Understanding The Nesting Habits Of Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls are fascinating creatures that have a unique nesting habit. These owls nest in various locations such as trees, cliffs, and even buildings. However, the use of a great horned owl nest box has become increasingly popular among conservationists to promote their breeding success.

The size of the great horned owl nests can vary depending on the location and availability of materials. They typically make their nests using sticks, leaves, feathers, and fur from prey animals. Unlike other birds who build elaborate structures for their nests, Great Horned Owls prefer to keep it simple.

Mating season for these birds begins in December and lasts until March. During this time, they become more vocal and territorial around their nesting sites. Once a mate is found, they will work together to prepare the nest by adding fresh materials or repairing any damage done over time.

When it’s time to lay eggs, female great horned owls will lay 1-4 eggs which take about four weeks to hatch. The male will provide food while she incubates them until hatching occurs. After approximately eight weeks from hatching, young chicks start venturing out of the nest but remain close by for another six months before reaching maturity.

In conclusion, understanding the nesting habits of Great Horned Owls is crucial to conserving this magnificent species. Conservation efforts must continue through initiatives like promoting the use of great horned owl nest boxes to ensure proper breeding habitats exist for future generations. Their ability to adapt to different environments makes them an important part of our ecosystem that deserves protection and appreciation.

Selecting The Right Location For Your Nest Box

Habitat is key when selecting a location for a great horned owl nest box; they need an environment with plenty of trees, shrubs and foliage. Sunlight is also important; the box should be in an area that gets enough sunlight during the day so the owls feel comfortable. Distance is important too; ideally the box should be set up within a quarter mile of their natural habitat. I’d also recommend selecting a location that’s away from busy roads, as this will decrease the risk of predators accessing the box. Furthermore, the box should be in an area with plenty of prey, such as rodents, rabbits, and other small animals. Finally, it should be placed high up in a tree, between 10 and 40 feet above the ground.


If you want to attract great horned owls to your area, providing them with a suitable habitat is crucial. These majestic birds prefer nesting in forested areas that are close to open spaces like fields or meadows where they can hunt for prey. When selecting the right location for your nest box, it’s essential to consider the surrounding environment and ensure that it provides everything these birds need.

Great horned owls are known for their adaptability when it comes to choosing nesting sites. They’re capable of using natural cavities in trees, cliffs, or even abandoned nests from other birds. However, due to deforestation and urbanization, finding suitable nesting locations has become challenging for these birds. This is why installing a nest box specifically designed for them can provide an excellent alternative.

The ideal habitat for great horned owls should have plenty of large mature trees with branches that offer sturdy support for their bulky nests. The location should be far away from human disturbance as possible since these birds are sensitive to noise pollution and will abandon their nests if they feel threatened. Additionally, having a nearby source of water is also beneficial since these birds require regular access to freshwater.

In conclusion, creating a suitable habitat plays a vital role in attracting great horned owls to your area and ensuring the success of your nest box project. By carefully considering factors such as available food sources, proximity to water bodies, and minimizing human disturbances around the site, you’ll create an inviting environment that will encourage these magnificent creatures to take up residence in your backyard!


Now that we’ve discussed the importance of habitat in attracting great horned owls to your nesting box, let’s delve into another crucial factor: sunlight. Great horned owls prefer shaded areas for their nests, as direct sunlight can cause overheating and increase the risk of dehydration in young chicks. Therefore, when selecting a location for your nest box, it’s essential to consider the amount of shade available throughout the day.

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The ideal spot for a great horned owl nesting box is one where there is partial shade during the hottest parts of the day. A mature tree with overhanging branches or an area under a canopy provides the right balance between light and shadow needed by these birds. However, be careful not to place your nesting box too close to dense foliage; doing so may make it difficult for adult owls to fly in and out smoothly.

Another key consideration when choosing a location for your nest box is its orientation towards the sun. East-facing boxes will receive more light early in the morning but less intense afternoon sun than west-facing ones. The direction you choose should also depend on weather patterns prevalent in your area since strong winds from certain directions could affect stability if placed incorrectly.

In summary, finding a suitable site for your great horned owl nesting box takes thorough planning and research. One must aim to create an inviting environment while considering factors such as shade availability and solar orientation. By following these guidelines carefully, you’ll provide these majestic creatures with everything they need to feel at home in your backyard!


Now that we’ve covered the importance of habitat and sunlight in selecting a location for your great horned owl nesting box, let’s discuss another critical factor: distance. The distance between your nest box and other structures can impact both the safety and success of breeding pairs.

It’s essential to place your nest box at least 100 feet from any human activity or traffic areas to minimize disturbances. Great horned owls are known to abandon nests when they feel threatened or disturbed by humans or pets. Thus, placing the box close to high-traffic areas may increase the risk of predation or abandonment.

Additionally, it’s crucial to consider nearby trees’ height when choosing a site for your nest box. Placing it too low increases access for predators such as raccoons or cats, while placing it too high makes it challenging for adult birds to reach during incubation periods.

The ideal spot is one where there are tall trees with sturdy branches within flying range but not too close to power lines or buildings. This setup provides protection against predators while allowing easy access for adult birds during feeding time.

Overall, finding an appropriate location for your great horned owl nesting box requires careful consideration of multiple factors, including the distance from human activities and tree height. By following these guidelines carefully, you’ll create a safe environment that will increase the chances of successful breeding seasons year after year!

Materials Needed For Building A Nest Box

What materials are needed for building a great horned owl nest box? As an ornithologist/avian biologist, I can tell you that the right materials will make all the difference in attracting these majestic birds to your backyard. Here are some suggestions:

First and foremost, use untreated wood. Cedar or pine are good options because they resist rotting and insects. Avoid pressure-treated lumber as it contains harmful chemicals that could harm the owls.

Next, choose the right size for your nest box based on the species of owl you hope to attract. Great horned owls require a larger box than screech owls, for example.

You’ll also need screws, hinges, and latches to assemble the box securely. Use galvanized or stainless steel hardware to prevent rusting over time.

Lastly, consider adding insulation to the walls of your nest box to keep chicks warm during cooler months. You can use natural materials like straw or wood shavings, but be sure not to pack them too tightly as this may limit ventilation.

With these materials in hand, you’re ready to build a great horned owl nest box that will provide shelter and nesting opportunities for years to come!

Step-By-Step Instructions For Constructing A Nest Box

Gathering the supplies necessary for constructing a nest box for great horned owls is the first step. I’ll need a saw, drill, screws, and plywood. Next, I’ll cut and assemble the pieces according to the directions. I’ll measure and cut the plywood into the right size pieces and then drill and screw them together. Finally, I’ll attach the nesting box to a tree, post, or wall.

Gathering Supplies

Before starting the construction of a great horned owl nest box, it is essential to gather all necessary materials. To begin with, one needs to collect two 4×8-foot sheets of exterior plywood, measuring ½ inch in thickness. The material used must be strong enough to withstand harsh weather conditions and provide insulation for the nesting birds.

Additionally, you will need an assortment of power tools such as a saw, drill machine, screws or nails, and sandpaper. These are crucial for cutting plywood pieces into proper dimensions and assembling them together. One should also consider using waterproof glue to secure joints so that they do not come apart due to moisture absorption over time.

It is equally important to obtain some basic safety gear like goggles and gloves before commencing work on the project. These protective items ensure that no debris or splinters get into your eyes while working with wood. Furthermore, wearing gloves prevents any injuries caused by sharp edges or accidentally hammering your finger instead of a nail.

In conclusion, gathering supplies is the first step towards building a great horned owl nest box successfully. It’s vital to plan ahead and acquire all required equipment beforehand since not having everything could lead to delays during construction. Remember always to prioritize safety when handling tools and wear appropriate protective gear at all times!

Cut And Assemble Pieces

Now that all the necessary materials have been gathered, it’s time to move on to the next step of building a great horned owl nest box. The process involves cutting and assembling pieces together to form the structure of the box. This is where power tools such as saws and drills come in handy.

Once you’ve measured and marked out your plywood sheets into their respective dimensions, carefully cut them using a circular saw or jigsaw. Make sure to follow these measurements precisely as any errors can affect the overall stability of the final product. Sand down any rough edges with sandpaper to prevent splinters from forming.

Assembling the pieces requires precision and attention to detail. Start by nailing or screwing together each side panel onto its adjacent one, ensuring they are level and flush with no gaps between them. Once this is done, proceed to attach the baseboard, roof panels, and front door (if included). Remember always to use waterproof glue along joints for added support.

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Cutting and assembling pieces might seem daunting at first glance, but with proper planning and execution, it becomes a straightforward task. Take note that every dimension must be precise so that everything fits snugly together without creating any weak points in the structure. In doing so, you’ll ensure that your great horned owl nest box provides reliable shelter for years to come.

Maintenance And Monitoring Of Your Nest Box

Now that you have constructed your great horned owl nest box, it is important to understand the necessary steps for maintaining and monitoring it. These actions are crucial in ensuring the safety and health of any potential inhabitants.

Firstly, it is recommended to inspect the nest box at least twice a year: once during the winter months and once towards the end of spring. During these inspections, check for any damage or wear on the structure as well as signs of occupancy such as feathers or droppings.

Secondly, cleaning out the nest box annually is also essential. This can be done after nesting season has ended and before fall begins. Remove all debris from previous nests and disinfect with an appropriate cleaner to prevent any spread of disease.

Lastly, recording any observations made during maintenance or monitoring is valuable data for research purposes. Keep track of dates and findings in a notebook or digital file for future reference.

In summary, constructing a great horned owl nest box is only half the battle; proper maintenance and monitoring play significant roles in its success. By regularly inspecting, cleaning, and keeping records, we can ensure a safe haven for these magnificent birds of prey.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Great Horned Owls Dangerous To Humans?

As an avian biologist, I must caution that great horned owls are indeed a formidable predator. These majestic birds of prey command respect with their razor-sharp talons and piercing gaze. While they may not pose a direct threat to humans on a regular basis, any wild animal deserves our utmost attention and care when encountered. It is important to remember that we share this planet with countless creatures, each playing a vital role in the ecosystem. Let us approach these magnificent beasts with reverence and awe, knowing that they are part of what makes our world so wondrous.

How Many Eggs Do Great Horned Owls Typically Lay In A Nest Box?

Great horned owls typically lay 1-4 eggs per clutch, with the average being around 2 or 3. The female owl will incubate the eggs for approximately one month before they hatch. It is important to note that great horned owls are not known for using nest boxes as often as other bird species, preferring instead to use natural cavities such as tree hollows or abandoned nests of other large birds. However, if a suitable nest box is provided in their territory, they may choose to utilize it for breeding purposes. As with any wildlife observation, it is crucial to approach nesting great horned owls with caution and respect to avoid disturbing them or putting oneself at risk of injury from these powerful raptors.

How Long Do Great Horned Owls Typically Live In The Wild?

On average, great horned owls have a lifespan of 5 to 15 years in the wild. However, there have been documented cases of these majestic birds living up to 28 years old! This impressive longevity can be attributed to their adaptability and predatory prowess. Great horned owls are apex predators that can thrive in diverse habitats ranging from forests to deserts. As avian biologists continue to study these magnificent creatures, we may uncover more insights into their remarkable survival skills and behaviors in the wild.

How Can You Tell If A Great Horned Owl Is Using Your Nest Box?

To determine if a great horned owl is using your nest box, there are several signs to look out for. One of the most obvious indicators is the presence of pellets or regurgitated food remains around the area. These owls often consume their prey whole and later expel indigestible matter in the form of pellets, which can be found near their roosting sites. Additionally, listen for vocalizations at night as these birds are nocturnal and use vocalizations to communicate with one another. Be sure to monitor the box from a safe distance to avoid disturbing any potential occupants. Finally, keep an eye out for feather remnants on or around the box, especially during nesting season when adults may be actively tending to their young. By paying close attention to these clues, you can confirm whether or not your nest box has been claimed by a great horned owl family.

Are There Any Legal Requirements For Building And Maintaining A Great Horned Owl Nest Box?

As an ornithologist, it is important to understand the legal requirements for building and maintaining bird nest boxes. Fortunately, there are many resources available through state wildlife agencies or conservation organizations that can provide guidance on this topic. It is essential to follow these guidelines as they often include specifications for materials, placement, and size of the box which will ensure its success in attracting birds. Additionally, adhering to these regulations ensures that you are not inadvertently harming any protected species or habitats. By taking the time to properly build and maintain a bird nest box within legal parameters, you can contribute to the conservation efforts of avian populations while also enjoying watching them thrive in their new homes.


In conclusion, building a great horned owl nest box is a rewarding and educational experience for any bird enthusiast. While these magnificent creatures are not typically dangerous to humans, it’s important to approach them with caution and respect their space. Great horned owls usually lay two eggs in their nests but can have up to four.

These apex predators can live up to 20 years in the wild, making them an impressive sight to behold. If you suspect that a great horned owl has taken residence in your nest box, be sure to observe from a safe distance and avoid disturbing them during nesting season. Remember, providing suitable habitat for these majestic birds contributes to the conservation of our natural world.

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