Owls in the "Hood"

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Posts: 1520
Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 4:16 pm
Location: Olpe, KS
Martin Colony History: 22 year landlord, 14 at current residence..offering 9 racks and a homemade T-8 for 166 total cavities. 160 Pair in 2018 Racks consist of a Deluxe 12, AAA 16, Starburst 16, 2 K-18 Series, Super 24, 2 Gemini, Multi-purpose/two trio’s/4gourds and a T-8..Great hobby to be involved in..

Have been at my current home for 5 yrs with martins{10 yrs altogether} and have never had an attack by an owl{believe me, i'm knocking on wood right now}. I can hear them in the timber behind me at dusk "hooting". I am surrounded by hay meadows and know for a fact that it is loaded with mice, pack rats, and snakes as my cat always brings them{mice, rats} up and leaves it half eaten in the garage or sidewalk {letting me know he's doing his part}. I know i'm probably playing with fire as I don't have owl guards on any of my 3 modified trio's or 16 gourds {nine have tunnels}. Could I actually believe they might leave me alone as the food source around here is plentiful or am I just getting lucky? I've noticed some of the pics here on the forum at some sites are lacking both snake and owl guards. Anybody else facing this kind of dilema????? P.S. Have snake guards up, even on BB and tres houses. Tony.
Posts: 59
Joined: Wed Mar 25, 2009 6:31 pm
Location: kansas/tonganoxie

hi tony, i live in about the same (sounds like) surroundings as you,i also have seen and heard owls, there are several hawks also in the area, i don't have any guards on mine either, but this year i made all my compartments 12" deep, hoping this will help. 2 of my martin houses are on 6" wooden poles, one has a snake guard, i hope, on it this year, it is just a bucket, but it is 30" long, wife thinks it looks like crap. the other pole is out in the pond about 10', no pole guard. my 3rd house is a commercial house on one of them flimsy triangular poles that got bent last year in a storm, also don' t think a black snake can't climb an aluminum trilangular pole, i had 1 last year, and couldn't beleive it!! you know you can only do so much, then nature will take it's course. i don't have any martin problems at all because mine still aren't here yet. i heard you have extras please send them this way. good luck !!

I'm not telling you what to do, but I had my colony grow for 10 years, last year was the best ever, until a Great Horned Owl came along. I figure he slaughtered about 75% of my birds.

This year, I have just now got one pair back. It isn't worth it. I've got 2 x 4 fence guards on my gourd rack, and will be fencing everything off once the nests have been well established.

It breaks your heart in half, and I won't ever get caught, "off guard" again. It just isn't worth the angst.
Kent Justus
Posts: 128
Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2003 5:59 pm
Location: Arkansas/Mount Vernon


Noguru is giving you great advice. The same thing happened to my 8-year old colony a couple of years back. I witnessed attacks by both Great Horned and Barred Owls, and it made me sick finding martin feathers beneath the trees each day from fresh kills the previous night. My rack is enclosed in 2"x3" 16-gauge hardwire cloth, which is somewhat lighter in weight than the 2"x4" "dog fence" steel wire. This has almost completely eliminated the owl predation, and my colony is full of happy martins who are building nests today. I place the 2" vertical and the 3" horizontal so they have more room to push nesting material through in order to get to their gourds. They are quite used to the guard and it is very effective. You're right, a majority of landlords do not have guards up thinking that their housing has never been, or never will be attacked until it is too late, as Noguru stated. I wish more landlords would proactively put these protections on their housing. Good luck. - Kent
Don & Danielle
Posts: 111
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2003 6:55 pm
Location: Dardenne Prairie, MO (suburb of St. Louis)

Another pro-owl guard vote for me!

I had a growing colony three years ago, with no owl guards. My gourds were mostly tunneled, so I thought I could get by. I was shocked to see a pile of purple feathers on my deck one morning, with one of the gourds askew and empty (had three babies close to fledging). That next night, NOT ONE pair of PMs brought their fledglings home, even though they all had been doing so. It was as if they knew they weren't safe.

That was the only attack I was aware of that year. The next year, I put up guards. I've seen owl feathers in the yard, but have seen no evidence of a successful owl attack since. My colony has grown ever since.

Owls are everywhere. Your PMs are at risk if you don't have guards in place.
Posts: 65
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 4:04 pm
Location: Pineland, TX

please consider putting owl guards of some kind on your housing..... i don't wish what happened to our colony on anyone....last year was our firth year and best year with fifty percent increase from the previous year. we had 96 martins on a monday and by wednesday we had none... an owl wiped us completely out... my husband made and put owl guards on all our gourds and houses. we have luckily gotten 6 martins back.... we have learned our lesson the hard way....
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