owls in ohio

How to Attract Owls in Ohio: A Guide to Welcoming These Magnificent Birds

Fred Bahnson 

Owls are fascinating creatures that can bring a sense of magic and mystery to any yard. While they may not be commonly found in Ohio, with the right approach, you can attract owls and enjoy their presence regularly. This guide will provide you with valuable tips on attracting owls to your yard and creating an owl-friendly environment.

Why Owls are Enchanting

Owls are beloved raptors known for their unique features, including silent flight, large eyes, and mournful calls. Their nocturnal behavior adds to their allure, making them creatures of mystery. Owls can coexist with other backyard birds due to their low daytime activity levels. Additionally, these excellent hunters can help control populations of squirrels, rodents, and even large insects. Some owl species may also prey on reptiles like snakes and lizards. Another advantage of attracting owls is that they don’t rely on birdseed, making them a cost-effective addition to your yard.

While there are over 200 owl species worldwide, only a few are typically found in backyards. The most common backyard owls in Ohio include:

  1. Barn owl
  2. Barred owl
  3. Eastern screech-owl
  4. Great horned owl
  5. Western screech-owl

Depending on your local habitat and the attractiveness of your yard to these birds of prey, you may also attract other owl species.

How to Attract Owls to Your Yard

To successfully attract owls, you need to cater to their four basic needs: food, water, shelter, and nesting sites. Here are some strategies to make your yard appealing to these magnificent creatures:


Owls don’t visit traditional bird feeders, but you can still provide them with a steady food source. Since owls primarily feed on mice, voles, and small rodents, having a population of mice nearby increases the chances of attracting owls. To make your yard more mouse-friendly, consider leaving grass uncut, creating a brush pile, and leaving seed on the ground. Avoid using poisons or traps, as owls can naturally take care of the rodent problem.


Owls derive most of their required fluids from the prey they consume, so they rarely visit bird baths. However, in hotter climates or during the summer, owls may be enticed by slightly larger, deeper birdbaths. Place these water sources in quiet and secluded areas to encourage owl visits.


During the day, owls need dense, mature trees with sturdy trunks for roosting. Look for shaded and secluded areas in your yard where these trees can be found. Both coniferous and deciduous trees are suitable, provided they are of adequate size. Consider installing empty owl nest boxes as alternatives to natural shelters. However, remember that creating natural spaces where owls feel safe during the day is the best way to attract them.

Nesting Sites

Most owls prefer nesting in hollow trees. Smaller owl species commonly found in yards and gardens may also utilize large nest boxes positioned 12-30 feet above the ground on a sturdy tree. Barn owls, on the other hand, may use abandoned buildings for nesting. Leaving a barn or shed accessible to them can provide an excellent place for owls to raise their owlets. Ensure that owl nest boxes are set up by January or February, as these birds nest earlier than other backyard species. Regular monitoring is essential to keep the boxes free from wasps, squirrels, rodents,raccoons, or other birds that may discourage nesting owls.

Creating an Owl-Friendly Environment

If your yard is already owl-friendly but you’re still having trouble attracting these nocturnal raptors, here are some additional steps you can take to make your yard even more appealing to them:

  1. Preserve Bare Branches and Dead Trees: Leave large, bare branches and dead trees intact as much as possible. These provide ideal perches and roosting spots for hunting owls.
  2. Establish a Natural Habitat: Create a rustic, natural section in your backyard with minimal pruning or maintenance. This will provide a comfortable environment for owls, especially for nesting and roosting purposes.
  3. Minimize Exterior Lighting: Avoid excessive exterior lighting, such as illuminated water features, floodlights, or spotlights, even if they have motion sensors. Owls are more effective hunters in darkness and are less likely to visit well-lit yards.
  4. Keep Pets Indoors: During twilight and nighttime hours, keep your pets indoors. This will not only ensure their safety but also prevent them from scaring away the mice and other rodents that owls rely on for food.
  5. Prevent Bird Window Collisions: Take measures to prevent bird window collisions, especially on larger windows. These collisions can be dangerous for hunting owls. Consider using window decals or installing screens to make the windows more visible to birds.

While these tips can help you attract owls to your yard, it’s equally important to avoid behaviors that could harm these birds:

  • Do not release caged mice or other small animals in an attempt to provide supplemental food for owls. These pets are not equipped to survive in the wild, and owls require live prey to fulfill their nutritional and behavioral needs.
  • Avoid excessive use of recorded owl calls that may agitate the birds or distract them from their hunting and nesting activities. Too many calls may also simulate an abundance of predators in the area, deterring other birds from visiting.
  • Remove all types of netting from your yard at night, including sports nets and decorative cobwebs. Flying owls can become entangled in these nets, causing distress, injuries, or even death. It’s crucial to remove any potential hazards to protect the owls.

With patience, careful planning, and adherence to these guidelines, you can create an inviting habitat that attracts owls to your Ohio yard. Enjoy the enchanting experience of observing these majestic birds up close in your own backyard.