Q: I saw your article about nests for barn owls (Natural Wonder, Jan. 10), and wondered where I could find plans for making nest boxes for them.
We have kestrel boxes and have had babies for the last four or five years.
This year, we had barn owls, and they were so interesting to watch, but they stayed in the trees. I would like to see if they will nest here. We also have had great horned owls for the past two years.
Where would I find out about building them a nest? Or do they need to do it themselves?
STEVE SNIDER, email
A: I checked with Idaho Fish and Game and they checked with their buddies at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The Iowa fish and game agency has plans for a barn owl nesting box. Click here to get a PDF that you can print.
The agency says that nest boxes can be used in place of cavity trees, or abandoned buildings for the birds to nest.
It also says placing predator-proof barn owl nest boxes in abandoned buildings can be effective.
Nest boxes are important because were losing large, dead trees to development. Some are cut down for public safety. Youll also see wooden barns that are falling down and later replaced by metal buildings.
Is the barn being lost in the name barn owl? Lets hope not.
There are other problems. Collisions with vehicles take their toll in Idaho. I saw a dozen or so dead owls along I-84 between Bliss and Twin Falls on a drive two weeks ago. Apparently the birds are swooping onto the freeway for rodents at night and getting hit.
Despite that, barnowlbox.com rates Idaho as having a fair population.
Populations also are good in Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Utah; fair in Wyoming; and theyre a species of special concern in Montana.
Here are some notes from Idaho Fish and Game on barn owls:
Besides trees and barns, barn owls also nest in cliff crevices, haystacks, church steeples, building ledges and even in burrows dug in vertical sand or dirt banks.
Owls lay eggs from late March to early May.
The birds usually lay four to seven eggs, but there can be up to a dozen. Incubation is about 33 days.
The young have voracious appetites and each will eat several mice in a night. That sure keeps the adults busy.
Baby owls fledge at 8 to 9 weeks of age.
Occasionally barn owls raise two broods of young a year.
Well, hope the plans help you in getting barn owls nesting nearby.
One important note from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is to minimize rodenticide use in areas known to have barn owl populations.
Barn owls will act as natural control for many common pests, the agency says.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors