Western Screech Owl Update

by Dan Weisz

Most of the Western Screech Owls in the Foothills are likely sitting on nests now.  The ones in the nest box in my backyard certainly are.  I imagine that the owlets are growing nicely “behind closed doors”, because I cannot see anything in the nest.  However, the mama and papa are busy feeding the young nightly.  Below are some recent photos.  In general, the male does all of the hunting and just brings the food to the female who then feeds the young.  For a few days, I was seeing the female poking her head out of the nest box for about an hour before sunset and then, after making low single note hoots to her mate, she would exit the nest box.  

The hole is about 3 inches in diameter, big enough for the owls to enter and leave, but too small for most predators.  I think her feet are visible standing on the lip of the opening.

And how about a close-up of the photo above?

Once she exited the box, she would find a nearby perch to await her companion's food delivery.  Sometimes it was on a porch light:
And you can use the bricks to figure out the owl’s length of about eight inches.

Another favorite spot is on a shepherd’s hook:

And for a spooky look, check out her closed eyelids!  They look ‘hairy’, covered in feathers.  I don’t know what I thought they would look like, but certainly not that.

Tonight, the female never showed her face outside of the box, even after dark.  The male came by and called and called while staring intently towards the nest box.  I never heard the female respond from inside the nest box, but the male finally went on his hunt, returning with food every ten minutes (until I went back inside my own house).

I learned about another nesting pair of Western Screech Owls through a friend of a friend of a friend at a location near Oracle and Ina.  Their owls are nesting inside their roof through a vent opening that lost its screen.  The opening is much larger than my nest box, perhaps 4 or 5 inches wide.  The female owl looks so large in that size opening.

The male delivered centipedes twice while we watched one night:


They make a lovely couple!

The female was getting ready to leave her home and demonstrated another owl feature. Owls, like most birds, have four toes- three facing forward and one backwards.  But owls have one toe that can rotate backwards to facilitate perching and to offer them a much larger claw to grab their prey with.  Here, you see the owl standing with just two forward facing toes.

To be continued…..