Eighteen species of owls are found in North America, and eight in the Bay area: the Barn Owl, Burrowing Owl, Western Screech Owl, Great Horned Owl, Northern Pygmy Owl, Short-eared Owl, Long-eared Owl and Saw Whet Owl. Owls are able to catch their prey unaware due to their noiseless flight feathers. Owls have exceptional sight during both the daytime and at night. However, they cannot move their eyes so must turn their head to see. They also have very sensitive hearing, and use the feathers on their head to channel sounds.
Owls typically have one brood of young per year, with the brood size varying between species. Baby owls begin to fly at 6-8 weeks. Owls have a life span of 15-30 years. Barn owls are typically found near humans: in farms, warehouses, stadiums and other open structures. Barn owls are distinctive by their white, heart-shaped facial disk. They have the most acutely developed sense of hearing of all the owls.
The Burrowing Owl, which stands only 9 inches tall and weighs 1/4 pound, is at risk of disappearing from the South Bay. The type of land they prefer, open flatland with short grass, is rapidly being developed. They can often be seen standing guard in front of their burrows, and have large yellow eyes.
The Great Horned Owl and the Western Screech Owl are most commonly found in forests. Male Screech Owls feed the female while she is incubating eggs, usually in a tree cavity or nest box. They may use the same nesting cavity for seven years or more. The Great Horned Owl is the largest of the owls in this area, and has the greatest range of all North American owls.
Making a Home for Our Neighbors
Owls needing nesting sites and protection due to a significant loss of habitat. You can help by setting up nesting boxes for different owl species. Nest-boxes can be homemade or purchased. Instructions for building or purchasing a nest-box are available at the Owl Network Resource Page. Nesting boxes should be placed in locations similar to the owls’ natural habitat, and should have drainage holes and sawdust in the bottom.