So How are Those Owls Doing?

by Dan Weisz

My last owl photos got a very nice response from many of you.  It was exciting to hear about how many of you also have owls for neighbors!  If you see your owls regularly and  would like me to try to take photographs of them for you, please contact me.

My Western Screech Owls seem to be doing fine.  In the past ten days, the female owl has discontinued leaving the nest box, which means she is sitting on eggs.  Additionally, there is far less hooting back and forth between the male and the female, probably to draw less attention to the vulnerable female and eggs.  The male is now hunting and bringing food to his mate on the nest.

Once in a while, I will see the male perched on a tree fairly close to the nest.  He seems to be waiting for a signal from his mate or just waiting to interact.  Western Screech Owls may be 8-9 inches tall, with a two foot wingspan.

I think the feathers on the back of his head look pretty cool.

The female will still poke her head out of the nest box occasionally.  Here, you can see her nictitating membrane.  This is a “third” eyelid that birds have to protect and moisten the eye while maintaining vision.  This transparent or translucent membrane moves horizontally, from the front to the back.

A few nights ago I saw the male fly in and land, staring intently towards the nest box.  There was no hooting between the male and the owl in the nest box- just silence.  He maintained this pose for many minutes, just staring. This allowed me to get some good shots of him.  As I was working in the dark, trying to maneuver around to get a clean look between all of the leaves and branches, I eventually noticed a bit of red near his feet.

I stopped taking photos and looked through binoculars to figure out what that bit of red was.  Turns out to be LUNCH!  The owl was holding on to a desert spiny lizard.  The lizard’s head was bloodied and I imagine the owl had give a nice powerful bite to its skull to neutralize it.  Meanwhile, the owl was waiting patiently for his mate to respond.

I left to give the owls their privacy but was thrilled to be able to witness another small part of nature’s majesty.  To be continued…….