When putting up a nest box for a bird of prey, there is more to it than buying or building a box and putting it up. All animals require a suitable habitat in order to survive and then raise a family, so the first thing you need to consider is the habitat you have and the species is it suitable for. In the UK, we have 4 species of birds of prey that will readily take to nest boxes and habitat is an important thing to bear in mind for each species. If you already know you have one of the four species listed below, you can always increase habitat to help the species and the distribution of any offspring.
This must be the most iconic owl and is one that everyone would love to have breeding around their home. Barn owls are naturally an owl of open countryside. They require large areas of rough pasture, the perfect habitat for their primary prey of Field Voles. You might be lucky enough to have such habitat, but if not, try and encourage local farmers to leave rough margins around their fields. Boxes should be positioned in a fairly open tree to allow a clear flight path or telegraph poles can be used to mount boxes. Visit our Barn owl page for more info.
The most common of our owls will readily take to a box. Tawny owls are associated with woodland, but they will also use boxes out in fields adjacent to woodland. They like a diverse choice of habitat, but woodland is preferable as the young will branch before they can fly, so plenty of cover is beneficial. Find out more on the Tawny owl page.
A typical cavity-nesting species, little owls are sadly seeing a decline more than likely due to the change in farming practices. Little owls will take invertebrate prey but also small mammals and fledgeling birds in the breeding season, so a mix of habitat is essential. They flourish around grazed pastures and historically old orchards, also around old buildings and farmyards. Find out more at the Little owl page.
Another species seeing a decline in numbers and range in recent years is the kestrel. Like the Barn owl, the kestrel needs rough grassland for hunting small mammals. Field margins and fallow ground is perfect for this species. More info can be found on our Kestrel page.
Above is just a very brief description but habitat is the most crucial thing to encourage a healthy population for any birds of prey.