Before The Cameras

the first box


A Brief History of the Jollyville Screech Owl House


The Beginning

In November 2006, I read an article in the Austin American Statesman about ornithologist Cliff Shackelford. He builds and sells screech owl houses from his Owl Shack website. I had seen screech owls in my neighborhood and was intrigued by the idea of an owl house.

Soon after that I found Chris' Eastern Screech Owl Nest Box Cam' . Chris Johnson has been raising screech owls on the web since the turn of the century. That’s right  since 2000. He keeps amazing records with dates/times of egg laying, hatching, fledging and other owl behavior along with his video. It’s unfortunate that this year he wasn’t able to get his camera up but you can still see all the previous years.

So I decided to build a box. I hung it in a large live oak tree in my front yard, about fifteen feet up, facing south, with a clear flight path for the owls. I was too late for nesting season that spring, but in December 2007 I saw an owl in the doorway. And owls have lived there ever since. The box is not occupied during the hot summer months but an owl moves in each fall as the weather turns cooler and stays until her babies have fledged in late May.

I’ve been very happy to have the house, and enjoy seeing an owl or two hang out in the doorway nearly every evening, but I also wanted to see what goes on inside.

the first box after a doorway modification, with mother and owlet


A New House

In the fall of 2014 I built a new house with video cameras. I got great high definition video cameras from Richard Yost at Birdhouse Spy Cam . I used two cameras to cover the inside of the box. One camera shows the floor area and one shows the upper area  a perch and the doorway. You can see live stream video and video clips on the Jollyville Owl YouTube Channel . 

the new box
I wanted the new house to hang from the tree with a block and tackle pulley system instead of being fixed to the tree like the old one. I needed to be able to raise and lower it easily to work on the cameras or the box as I need to. So I started with a sturdy hanging strap from Rope Tree Swings . The 2 inch wide strap has a loop sewn in to each end and will prevent damage to the tree like you might get from a rope or cable digging into the bark. 

Then I added a block and tackle and a good quality rope so I can raise and lower the box as needed.  I used a sturdy ¼ inch firm double braid polyester rope that I bought from the Knotty Girls at Columbia Basin Knot Company . That rope is UV resistant and doesn’t stretch  just the qualities I needed.

December 19, 2014, was the day to take down the old house and raise the new one. I hired a pro to do the high work for me because the new strap with the block and tackle was going to hang from a branch about 25 feet up.

screech owl eggs
First he had to take down the old house. When he looked inside, there was an owl still inside and two eggs (that were old and non-viable).

We tapped on the box, but she didn’t leave. We carefully lowered the old house. I put on gloves, reached in, picked her up and moved her to the new house. It was truly amazing to hold her.  She was so lightweight.  I put her in the new box. She stood and flapped her wings a bit, but stayed there. We raised the box.

The box was up.  The cameras were in place. I could see Ms. Owl in her box. It was the beginning of a whole new adventure.

© 2016 The Jollyville Screech Owl HouseTM  .  All rights reserved.

Copyright Notice: All content, including audio, video, photographs, and written material appearing on this site is subject to and protected by copyrights. No reproduction of images or sounds may be made without express prior written consent of The Jollyville Screech Owl House, including but not limited to any commercial use, sale, or distribution thereof. Screen shots are copyrighted material as they are a photo or digital image of copyrighted material. The owner grants permission under Fair Use terms of copyright law for personal use, free public posting, and media reporting.


  1. We have had Eastern Screech Owls three years and this year installed a nest-cam so am having fun watching four owlets grow. They are a week and a half old now but I'm concerned because, I haven't seen any food brought in in the last two nights. Do you know how often the owlets need to eat? There is also one unhatched egg. In past years, we only saw them when they started peeking up through the hole.

    1. Hello. The owlets need food daily (nightly!) They eat bugs, moths, lizards, garden snakes, birds, mice, etc. If you have concerns, you could try presenting mice. On my livestream ( ), in the lower right view, you'll see a tray I can raise and lower to place mice on. I but them frozen at local pet stores. If you can put something similar in view of the doorway of your box, your owl will see it and feed on it. Place mice out at dark because blue jays will steal the mouse if they see it before they go home for the night. Best of luck with the owletts!

  2. Thanks for sharing. I have been doing screech owl video for 8 yrs now. Lots of great ideas from your house and camera design. I plan to barrow some of your great ideas when I build a replacement house this fall. Always fun to see what the owls are up to.