Friday, May 26, 2017

On Monday Elvis Left the Building

Guest post by Dan Weisz

On Sunday I confirmed that there are three owlets.  The one below has that blemish on the lower, outer portion of his left iris.

And there are two siblings without the blemish in their eye!  So there are at least three owlets!

On Sunday the behavior of the owlets in the nest box and as well as the behavior of the parents outside of the nest box had dramatically changed.  Monday couldn’t come soon enough. 

Before sunset, the female Western Screech Owl was on her ladder perch once again.

As the sun began to set, she went through her now familiar 'waking up' routines.  Below she is finishing a rouse, getting all of her feathers in place and relaxed.  Her head reminds me of the Wookiee Chewbacca from Star Wars.

She followed up with some stretches and warbling:

First her left wing stretched low while standing very tall on those feathered legs.

Then her right wing.  It’s like she’s doing the Hokey Pokey.

Then both wings up high while she lowers her head and kneels forward!

And then, after settling down, she took off into the desert.  The owlets had not been sticking their heads out of the nest box as they had done regularly in the past week.  Suddenly, I saw some blurry motion in the mesquite tree above the nest box. One owlet on a branch!  I wasn't certain whether it had flown out of the nest box or flew in from somewhere else.  In any case, one owlet was out.  I then saw motion in the back of the mesquite tree and another owlet was perched.  Two owls had fledged!

This is the one with the blemish in his left eye on his lower, outer iris.  Note how his feathering is very different from the parent above.  He has barred feathers, almost like a herringbone design.  The adult owl has vertical black streaking on its body.  The ‘facial disc’ on the adult is very pronounced, and just developing in the young.  The owlet just has a fuzzier look to it.

The owlets hardly moved on the mesquite.  They would turn, and when they moved to another spot, it was by a short hop and some clumsy flapping of their wings mostly for balance.  They spent much time just sleeping or resting, perhaps waiting for food delivery.  Below is the same owlet on the exact same perch (note the mistletoe seeds in front of him).  Here his  feathered “ear” tufts or plumicorns are beginning to be visible.

Here is the second owlet, just resting.

but still alert and looking around for its parent. Again, no plumicorns, no pronounced facial disc, and no vertical striping on its body.

It was exciting to see the two little owls out of the nest but still limited in their abilities to move around.

Stay tuned for the final report!

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