By Dan Weisz
I have a few more photos of one of the last Great Horned Owl family that I had been watching. I’ve been holding on to these shots but now I can share them while partnering them with some photos of a new family of owls- a Western Screech Owl family.
On one of the final nights that a mid-town Great Horned Owl family remained in their nest tree, I was able to spot only one remaining Owlet in the nest tree. This was the only owl left in the tree.
And then I saw movement in the tree across the driveway. There were two young birds there and the mother Great Horned Owl. As sunset approached, the young owls began to move. This owlet flew over to a tall, bare snag to look around. Check out those talons.
And then another owlet became more active. It fluttered up to what looked like a very precarious perch. This large bird likely weighed less than two pounds and so the tiny branch held even though it looked like it might not.
And then it took off. The first owlet seems to be watching its sibling very closely. I had the camera focused on the perched bird when the second bird photobombed me.
And then there were two Great Horned Owlets. The sun was setting on my right, and momma owl was on my left.
The “first” owl repositioned itself to be facing its mother and got its balance while the second bird looked back over its shoulder at momma.
It got dark and I left. The next night I returned and only one owlet was around. After sunset, we could see the rest of the owl family flying around in a tree a block away. The remaining owlet stayed in the nest tree for the longest time, stretching its wings and moving around. Finally, with just a little light left in the sky, it took off flying the long block to its family. That was the last that I would see of that Great Horned Owl family.
Then a few weeks later, I heard from an acquaintance who had a Western Screech Owl family in her back yard. I came over in the middle of the day to check them out. The mother Owl was perched on a cinderblock pillar in the shade.
Three of the Western Screech Owls had fledged and were perched in a nearby mesquite tree. These two were hanging out together.
While this owlet was on its own just one branch over from its siblings. The young owls have light horizontal barring on their breast feathers and their plumicorns (feather tufts) are just beginning to grow on their heads.
The adult Western Screech Owl has very different feathering from her young. You can see the vertical black striping on her breast feathers and on her wings. Her plumicorns are more formed and you can see the dark feathers marking the outline of her facial disk. The young do not have that feature in their facial feathers yet. The photo below was taken a few days after I first “met” this family. Mother was on a different porch pillar.
And on the porch pillar where I first saw the mother owl, there were now two young Western Screech Owls sitting. They apparently have not yet fledged and are still living in the cavity formed by the cinderblock pillar under the heavily shaded cover.
And on that afternoon, all three of the young fledged owls were perched together. I couldn’t have asked for a better family photo!
More Burrowing Owl photos to come along with photos of other birds and critters!