Thursday, May 11, 2017

Western Screech Owl Update

 Guest post by Dan Weisz

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?



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.



The parents have been busy nightly foraging for food for the owlets hidden in the nest box.  It has been fascinating watching the parents work hard to bring food to their rapidly growing young.

The mama owl seems to like to perch on this shepherd’s hook in my yard when she first leaves the nest each evening.  From there, she calls for her mate for a while before flying off.  Here, she is “rousing”- straightening out all of her feathers before flying off.  Think of your own morning stretch.



As her feathers settle down and she relaxes, her feather tufts (called plumicorns) make her look like a cute little devil.



That evening the male returned to a mesquite perch with the first treat of the night.  He stared towards the nest box waiting for some signal from his partner.  It was hard to make out what the prey was from this angle.  And I don’t really think he’s upset, but if he were human- that look would mean something.



But from another angle, I could clearly see the caterpillar hors d’oeuvre.



This photo is not very sharp but you have an image of the owl leaving the nest and the first sighting of an owlet.  Its beak point is pointing up and to the left and its facial feathering is not like the adults at this time!



The male has begun entering the nest with food now.  After this meal was brought in, the adult owl did not leave the nest for about five minutes, a comparatively long time.  We guessed that it must have brought a large item to eat.  When the owl finally poked his head out, you could clearly see that the feathers around his beak were “stained” red with “juice” from dinner.  A bonus was seeing the nictitating membrane on his left eye.  Perhaps he was washing out some snack debris from his eye.



I also visited the eastside park where I had seen a Great Horned Owl on a nest a few weeks ago.  The owlet has made its appearance.



Now that the nest is more crowded, mama spends some time nearby, but always facing the nest




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