Owls are often referred to as birds of prey, along with falcons, hawks, eagles, vultures, kites, ospreys, northern harriers, and crested caracaras. Owls are almost entirely nocturnal, have large heads and large, forward-facing eyes. Although there are many species of owl, the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) is the most widely distributed raptor in North America, which hunt and feed on small-to medium-sized birds and mammals, including poultry. Chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and pigeons are vulnerable.
Owls will usually only kill one bird per day. The victim of an owl attack will frequently be found without a head, and feathers plucked from the body, if one was even left behind. Owls will leave small heaps of chalky whitewash on the ground below their nests, and regurgitate pellets composed of accumulations of bones, teeth, hair, and other undigested materials from the victim. The pellets will also be covered with a moist iridescent sheen.
Owls are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 USC, 703-711). These laws strictly prohibit the capture, killing, or possession of owls without special permit. No permits are required to scare depredating migratory birds except for endangered or threatened species, including bald and golden eagles.
Protection : By far the best defense is to house domestic birds in a durable, fenced enclosure that will allow the birds to safely eat and loaf outside during the day. Such a structure can be constructed with a wooden framework that is entirely covered with 1in poultry wire or similar netting. This outdoor run can be permanent and attached to a coop or other building, or be a portable and moved periodically.
Note : Where a complete and permanent enclosure isn’t practical or desirable, escape cover should be provided. Birds have natural defenses at the sight of an owl and will quickly squeeze under a nearby building, old car, shrub, or other area. Escape cover can be made of planks, plywood, or chicken wire placed over logs, rocks, or bricks. It should be at least 7 x 7 feet wide and long and the cover should be 12 inches off the ground.
Overhead protection : Install supported, fully stretched, overhead protective bird netting that is strong enough to support the weight and force exerted by a large hawk or owl without collapsing the entire system. Use garage frames to help support the netting.
- Shotgun : The most common and easily implemented frightening device is a shotgun fired into the air in the direction of (not at) the bird.
- Scarecrow : if moved regularly and used in conjunction with a shotgun fire or pyrotechnics.