Posts Tagged ‘owls’

GoodBye Trio MSS-8

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Erva announced recently that is was discontinuing a couple of their aluminum purple martin houses. The MSS-8 is therefore being discontinued. I was never crazy about the MSS-8 as it was just too small and there are several much better values out there. Once you close off alternating compartments, as recommended by the PMCA and, you end up with a pretty standard, unimpressive 4 room house. Not giving you much room for a healthy colony, our opinion is a 4 room house is just wrong.

Why do we make such a big deal about enlarging compartments? 6×6 is so 20th century and so unsafe. 6×12 is the way to go. Predators such as Owls can reach in 6 inches with their feet making anything in a small 6×6 compartment an easy dinner. Even Fish Crows and in some cases Blue Jays, have been known to reach in and snatch an easy meal. Also PMCA studies show that purple martins that nest in larger compartments lay more eggs on average, more eggs hatch and more survive to fledge.  A simple feat to enlarge existing compartments. Some housing systems (Like Quad Pods) use a “baffle” to deter Owls. That is simply a plastic barrier, within the compartment that prevents the owl from seeing past it and into the compartment itself. Larger compartments simply increase the distance from entrance to the nest interior. The added length makes it difficult for an Owl to reach in and pull out birds with his talons. Since an Owl can not reach in far enough, houses or gourds that incorporate this added length can help your Martins have some measure of safety.

The other models being discontinues are the DH-12N (a budget version of the popular Trio Mini Castle system) and the winch version of the MSS-12. The Budget DH-12N has always had stiff competition from the Heath 12/6 convertible that has the added features of SREH (Starling Resistant Entrance Holes) and compartments that can be easily enlarged to the recommended size, and still has the same hexagon shape that folks find so attractive. Though Heath does make an even cheaper version of the 12/6 convertible, again we do not recommend it due to the safety issues it poses to purple martins.

Screech Owl Tragedy

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

You may recall my occasional posts regarding a Screech Owl(s) that have called the Flicker nestbox next to my driveway home for several years now. Faithfully, every Spring, a pair of Screech Owls lays claim to the box and whether or not young have been raised there, I never really knew. I have found broken owl egg shells near the box and often see the owls exiting at dusk and just peeking out in the day. But recently the owls fate has become tragically known.

One morning this week, I was outside my garage and something on the ground on the concrete caught my eye. The adult Screech Owl was on the ground, not 10 feet away from me, looking at me with heavy eyes. The sunlight was obviously uncomfortable but the injury I saw made the glare of the sun on this nighttime raptor, insignificant.

Its right wing hung by a small thread of flesh, dried blood caked on itshurt owlfeathers and wing bones protruding grotesquely. I knew (s)he was in trouble and was beyond any hope of ever flying again. At best she would retain her life, but her gift of flight was gone forever. Glancing at the nest box I wondered about its contents.

My spouse got the ladder and climbed up and heard soft calls from inside and within the box were 2 of the cutest white powder puffs of baby owl, I have ever seen. There eyes squeezed shut, it was hard to make out heads or tails of the little fluffy balls.

We removed the babies for about 5 minutes while we made some repairs to the front of the nest box which will not make it through another year and while waiting for a call back from Busch Wildlife Sanctuary to determine what should be done. I looked them over and they seemed to have empty crops but otherwise unharmed.

The folks at Busch Wildlife told us to observe the nest box as the surviving owl would return during the day (which I thought was odd) and resume care of the nestlings. My fear being that the adult that was injured was close to the nestbox and was obviously caused by some predator. Either the hawk saw the male owl roosting in the tree by day and mangled it or a Horned Owl (common in my area) or Raccoon found the nest box during the night and attempted to pull out the female. In the ensuing struggle the little screech must have been able to tumble free and land in a large section of thick dense shrubs that surround that side of our house. I can imagine her laying in the bushes and making her way out to the concrete in the hours that followed.

A careful search of the trees close to the nest box uncovered no other owl roosting and as dusk approached, no other owls came to feed or care for the youngsters. Like the purple martins, after being attacked by such fearsome predators such as Raccoons or Horned Owls , the mate (if it survived) probably fled for its life and would unlikely return.

I watched from a vantage point that I would often sit to observe these little Screech Owls and no mate ever returned. My hopes for these 2 little owls fledging from our nest box diminished and I decided that a Wildlife Rehabilitator would be their fate.

4 days later, at Wildlife Resource Center of the Palm Beaches, I am told that the babies are doing well and eating up a storm. As for the adult Screech Owl, Busch Wildlife Sanctuary has YET to return my multiple calls.

Many thanks to Ellen from Wildlife Resource Center of the Palm Beaches. I think I have found a new Wildlife Rehabber!

Owl Protection

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

A whopping 3 Martins on the wires for less than 5 minutes. That was it.

I have been thinking a lot about Owl Protection for next year. I have several options…and so do you.

I strongly encourage all those that do not have predator protection in place to give it some thought. The work that Purple Martin Landlords go through to attract these birds is significant. The damage an Owl can do over the course of a few nights is devastating. With a few simple deterrents you can save the lives of many martins.

Its amazing the animals around us that we are not aware of. We look out our windows or get out of our cars and we have no idea the eyes that are watching us. I did not think there were that many Owls out here where I live until I spoke to a nice man at the local grocery store. He proceeded to tell me of the 4 nest boxes he had on his property…about 2.5 miles from me, that fledged baby Horned Owls every year. I was amazed since I figured that since I had never heard “hooting” that there were no Owls. WRONG! I have read many a posts from landlords who lost their entire colony to some predator or the other. Purple Martins just don’t pick up and leave. Something drives them away. Be it snakes, raccoons or Owls (to name a few) There are creatures rooming around in the dark scouring the neighborhood for an opportunity. And trust me, being 15 feet in the air is not protection.

Here is a short list of things you can do to protect your colony from Owls. (Many Thanks to the PMCA, Purple Martin Research Group and the Purple Martin Clubhouse)

1. ENLARGE THOSE COMPARTMENTS! 6×6 is so 20th century and so unsafe. 6×12 is the way to go. A simple feat to enlarge existing compartments. Some housing systems (Like Quad Pods) use a baffle to deter Owls. That is simply a plastic barrier, withing the compartment that prevents the owl from seeing past it and into the compartment itself.

2. USE TUNNELS! The tunnel can work like a baffle in some respects, preventing the owl from seeing all the way in the compartment. Mainly the tunnel makes it difficult for an Owl to reach in and pull out birds with his talons. An Owl can reach all the way in a 6×6 compartment and pick off every last bird. With a tunnel, the birds have some measure of safety.

3. WHITE NOISE! Do you have a pool? Is the pump near the martin housing? If so that is a perfect way to mask the noise of the birds “talking” at night. And YES, they do talk. And yes, an Owl flies around listening for just such sounds. Other ways to make white noise are fountain pumps or waterfalls. Even a sound machine sold at your local Wal-Mart or Target can be used to make white noise. Cost is under $15. Or how about a cheap radio set in between stations. (As long as your neighborhood is safe enough that it won’t get stolen) Usually if the radio is playing static, no one will really mess with it. (who wants an apparent broken radio!)

4. WIRE ME UP! 3″ x 4″ hardware cloth or ‘chicken’ wire can make a great owl guard. Wrapped around the housing, the martins will quickly learn to navigate the wire and have a safe escape if an Owl comes calling. You can also purchase Owl Guards that are made specifically for your housing that wraps around it-serving the same purpose.

5. LIGHTS ! Many have found that flood lights, either on all night or motion activated can somewhat deter Owls. Apparently the lights can spoil an Owls stealth approach. My philosophy is-every little bit helps.

There are a few other things that you can do to help. Make your gourds as “swing-free” as possible. (Thank you Mr.Pampell!) Look into a product called Niteguard. It is an artificial “eye”, a blinking light that simulates the eyes of an owl on the top of the housing. Owls stay away from other Owls. So if the Owl thinks there is one parked on top of your Martin house, he will keep going. (Thanks Lisa) Though some say this does NOT work, others say it does. You decide. I would not trust it exclusively to protect from owls.

So those are my tips on Owl Predation Prevention. And you all know how much an ounce of prevention is worth!

I have been working hard on the website. New Purple Martin Polymer jewelry has been added as well as some beautiful Swallow apparel. Check it out

Talk to you soon.