By Dan Weisz
It was the end of May when the two baby Western Screech Owls were just out of the nest. The activity of the adults changed and brought me some final looks of the family. For one thing, the parents’ hunting skills were very evident (there may be a few photos here that will trigger the more squeamish of you…but there also will be some guaranteed cute photos to follow). One of the owls brought this kangaroo rat home very early in the evening.
And then, one of the adults brought a house sparrow back
I was startled when an owl brought this bird to the popular mesquite perch. Based on the feathers, I would guess this prey item is a juvenile Northern Cardinal. It appears to be too large and colorful to be a House Finch and too dark and colorful to be a Pyrrhuloxia. This is a sizable catch for this little owl.
Nature doing what nature does…. Somehow this reminded me of the spaghetti scene in the movie “Lady and the Tramp”.
I can’t remember my 9th grade Biology class, so I’m not sure whether to title this shot “Eat Your Heart Out” or “I Can’t Stomach This”.
After that night, with the owlets having fledged, they moved on to a safer space nearby where they would continue to grow, learning to hunt and survive in the desert. I neither saw nor heard them and thought that was the end of my Owl spring/summer. Imagine my surprise three weeks later to walk outside and hear the mother Western Screech Owl calling softly from a dead cholla branch, just one foot off of the ground.
And in the mesquite tree next to her were several of her little ones, looking much more grown up now. They are usually buried deep behind thick mistletoe or tree branches, so photos are not possible. I watch the birds and they watch me, but I only spend a short amount of time doing so. I was able to take a few photos only, as they remained in their safe perches most of the time.
The young owls will retain their appearance for the summer. Around September their plumage will change and they will begin to look more like an adult.
The juvenile Western Screech Owls will remain close to their parents for about 5 weeks after they leave the nest. At that time they will begin to wander away from their parents more regularly, foraging for themselves and roosting separately. Until then, I assume I may see them in the yard at the start of their “day”.
One bird dropped to the ground before flying back to its “nurse” tree.
This has been a wonderful experience for me. I can’t wait until next spring arrives and the owls begin this process all over again.