4-H Club gives a “hoot” to help barred owls

ELIZABETH – The 4-H “What a Hoot” Owl Club members are taking part in the 4-H Nesting Box Challenge.

The Owl Club is being led as a coordinated effort between the University of Illinois Extension Staff, Extension Master Naturalists, and the Jo Daviess County Conservation Foundation.

The Illinois Raptor Center has asked members across the state to build Barred Owl nesting boxes for a state-wide study, and youth in Jo Daviess County signed up to be a part of this groundbreaking research that began in January and ends in May.

The Barred Owl is a large owl species that live throughout the state. This species is a lowland bottoms area owl that preys upon various rodents, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and small fish.

They nest in cavities in trees and show a preference for a more open top formation. Traditional owl nesting boxes are a box with a hole and roof overhead, and has had limited success.

The Illinois Raptor Center has modified the design to consist of a partially open top which they hope will deter other species from occupying the box. 4-H members hope to have more answers to which box is better at the end of the summer.

The Owl Club has had two meetings to date, where topics covered were the habitat, diet, and the mating habits of the Barred Owl; how to build each style of box; the importance of GPS coordinates; and learning about NestWatch.

Members then traveled to the Schurmeier Teaching Forest near Elizabeth to disperse both sets of nesting boxes for a side by side comparison.

Each club member is responsible for individually collecting data for two weeks during this challenge.

The data collected will be uploaded to NestWatch which will then be used by the Illinois Raptor Center for their study.

Call the extension office at 217-244-9021 for more information.