The Story Behind the WBU Owl Box
For the past several years, Jim Carpenter, Founder and CEO of Wild Birds Unlimited has had an owl box in his backyard. According to Jim, “I first placed the Wild Birds Unlimited Barred Owl Box in my wooded backyard in 1998 with the first nesting 8 years later. I have had nesting owls almost every year since then, but have no idea if it is the same pair.
The owl nest box is 32 ft. up in a pignut hickory tree, facing north, and is only 75 feet from the back of the house. The top of the box is a white translucent but opaque plastic so that the daylight cameras are bright. Don’t be surprised to hear the usual household sounds of dogs barking and being called, cars driving on a nearby road, and we home owners or workmen doing various chores and chatting. You will also hear the sounds of a home being constructed nearby, and on occasion you will hear our neighbor’s shooting range which is ½ mile away. This is all a normal part of the ecosystem for these owls, who live in this small forest in a rural neighborhood year-round. The owls only use the box for nesting.”
Providing this wonderful up-close look into the lives of the owl family is no small feat. Jim explains, “The camera system was updated in the fall of 2020 with a high resolution 1080p security camera and microphone connected to our house via 200 feet of POE Ethernet cable. An infrared illuminator in the box means you can keep track of the owls’ comings and goings throughout the night (don’t worry—the light is invisible to the owls). Also, needed carpentry work was done on the box, perches and light-translucent roof. It took 4 trips by expert tree climbers to bring the box down, repair, re-install, test, bring it down again, etc.” A second outside camera was added in 2018 so you can watch the daddy owl bring food to the egg-brooding mama, and later to see the owlets as they explore the world outside and eventually fledge. To keep predators like raccoons from investigating the nest, aluminum flashing was wrapped around the tree.