More of the Western Screech Owl Family

by Dan Weisz

Open Wide!  This owlet may be  yawning, or perhaps it is getting ready to ‘cast a pellet’.  In either case, this is a pretty cute look.

What is ‘casting a pellet’?  Many kinds of birds cast pellets. From birdnote.org : "The digestive systems of these birds have to deal with bones, scales, fur, or feathers. So the bird’s gizzard performs a kind of sorting operation. Soft tissues pass through to be digested, while indigestible sharp and hazardous bits are formed into an oval mass, or pellet. They pass back up the digestive system and are regurgitated a few hours later.”  In the shot below, the mama owl had just left her nest for the evening and, after sitting on my porch light for a minute or two, did her business.

Wednesday’s dinner:  a Variable Sand Snake.  Looking at the snake’s underside, you can see where the “kill” bite occurred.

The owl is passing the treat off to its young, and you can see the snake’s pretty colors.

Holding the snake by the head, the little owl begins to descend to the nest box floor to consume its food.

Peek-a-Boo:  Even though they are nocturnal creatures, the owls can see during the daytime and often stick their heads out of the nest box to check out the world.  

I’ve been asked about the number of owlets in the nest.  Since they all look very much alike, it has been difficult for me to tell them apart.  A good friend noticed something very different about at least two of the owls.  In this peek-a-boo pairing, look at the lower, outside corner in the eye of each owlet’s iris.  The owlet below has a dark spot on its iris.  The second one does not.  See the dot?

And in this shot, no dot on the iris.  So there are at least two owlets, maybe more.  I’m waiting impatiently for them to leave the nest so I’ll know for sure.

Each night the mother varies her routine.  Some nights, she leaves the nest an hour or so before sunset and naps on a ladder that faces the nest.  Other nights she remains in the nest until just after sunset before leaving for her night’s hunt.  When she does leave, she varies the direction she takes and varies her initial perch.  On a few nights, I never see her leave the nest.  Apparently, she leaves the nest an hour or two prior to sunset (before I begin my Owl-TV vigil) and heads off into the desert early.

Here she is on the ladder, checking me out.

She seems to be saying “Owl see you later”.

To be continued……..