Archive for the 'Owls' Category

Wisdom of the Owl (pellets)

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017
Barred Owl

Barred Owl

This is Passport to Texas

Owls symbolize wisdom – and we can learn much from them when pick their… pellets.

It’s more dignified than digging through poo because you’ll be digging through vomit.

Amy Kocurek and I have different ideas about what’s dignified, but this interpretive ranger at Martin Dies Jr. SP, in East TX does know how to keep visitors engaged.

The kids especially, they love it. Little furry, tin foiled wrapped up presents, that they get to unwrap and see what sort of mysterious surprises await inside.

Wrapped in foil? Yes, because you can order them online.

Most of them are from barn owls that people will collect from in their bars where owls just hack up these pellets; they’ll collect them and sanitize them and sell them for teachers, mostly.

Whether pellets are fresh or sanitized for your protection, those small, furry capsules have secrets to reveal.

Because it contains these almost perfectly preserved pieces of bones and beaks and different things the owl ate, researchers can see what their man food source is in the area that they’re living, if that food source is changing seasonally…. But also, if you’re doing population studies on small mammals that will allow you to see how many different types of mammals are being eaten by owls. So, it can give you an all-round general idea of the population of animals in that ecosystem.

Dissect pellets with Amy Kocurek April 15 at Martin Dies Jr. SP; details at

That’s our show… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

TPW TV – Owls Underground

Friday, July 29th, 2016
Burrowing Owl

Hey! Outta my burrow, you skunk!

This is Passport to Texas

Birds don’t get much cuter than the burrowing owl. And you won’t have to stay up past your bedtime to see one.

One of the great things about these owls is [unlike most owls] they’re out during the day; they’re active day and night.

The week of July 31, get to know this small sandy colored owl with long legs during a segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS. Alan Fisher produced a story that looks at how this species, threatened and endangered in some part of North America, survives its dwindling habitat in El Paso.

So, they’re a species of concern here because of habitat loss. Burrowing owls don’t tend to dig their own burrows from scratch. They will occupy burrows left from prairie dogs or ground squirrels or other burrowing animals. So, as those animals get pushed out burrowing owls lose their habitat as well.

Fisher also talks with Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Lois Balin, who creates artificial owl nest borrows fitted with video surveillance systems.

Having the cameras underground, gives the biologists a lot of new tools. It’s pretty awesome.

Not surprisingly, says Fisher, the cameras are revealing much about the hidden lives of burrowing owls, from the number of eggs and nestlings, to prey items, and even visitors.

The skunk discovery is the rather astonishing discovery. Skunks are going into the burrows and occupying them, and in some cases preying on the owls.

To find out how the burrowing owls fare, tune into the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS the week of July 31. Check your local listings.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Owl Nest Boxes

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015
An owl waiting for his new home.

An owl waiting for his new home.

This is Passport to Texas

What would you call a wooden box intended for owls?

02- It would be called an owl box.

I really need to start making these questions harder. Ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says man-made owl boxes are a “stand in” for what nature provides.

07-What these owls would do is look for a cavity in a tree–a hollow in a tree–and that’s what this box is replacing.

The Barn Owl and Eastern Screech Owl are two wide-ranging owl species in Texas, with different needs.

15- They use different size boxes. The Barn Owl is much larger than the Eastern Screech Owl. And you can go online on the Parks and Wildlife website; we have blueprints on how to make these boxes for these birds. Or you can just go online [to other sites] and find other blueprints and make them [the nest boxes] to your

Owls make some people nervous because they are raptors and have strong hooked beaks and sharp talons, but Cliff Shackelford says, fear not.

14-The good thing about owls: they’re good neighbors to have because they eat a lot of rodents. Screech Owls eat a lot of roaches. The wood roaches. The big ones that are outside. So, it’s good to have owls, because they’re keeping these things that we consider pests in check.

Cliff says owl boxes work best in areas where you have good tree cover. I have a link where you can find the measurements for nest boxes and bird houses
appropriate for common species at

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Dimensions for Owl Nest Boxes

Barn Owl

Baby owls in a nest box.

Baby Barn Owls.


Floor – 10 inches by 18 inches
Depth – 15 to 18 inches
Entrance height above floor – 4 inches
Entrance diameter – 6 inches
Recommended height above ground – 12 to 18 feet





Screech Owl

Screech Owl in a nest box hanging on tree.

Screech Owl in a nest box.


Floor – 8 inches by 8 inches
Depth – 12 to 15 inches
Entrance height above floor – 9 to 12 inches
Entrance diameter – 3 inches
Recommended height above ground – 10 to 30 feet