The Western Screech Owl Family

By Dan Weisz

We have Western Screech Owls throughout the Foothills. If you have owls in your yard and would like me to photograph them, let me know!. Here are some more shots of the pair of Western Screech Owls who are using the nest box in my yard.

The male continues to provide for his family. He leaves his roost spot under my neighbor’s porch every night shortly after sunset. During the days, he is often visible but he will drop back into the bricks if he gets worried or if he is just ready for another nap.

I saw him with a Western Banded Gecko a few nights ago in a photo I already shared, but this time he caught a Mediterranean House Gecko. This is a non-native species of geckos that probably came over to the States tucked into some imported house plants. As you can imagine, their home territory is around the Mediterranean among other places. These geckos have spread across southern states.

The next night he arrived with prey, but the prey was very well camouflaged against the owl’s feathers.

When the owl turned sideways, the prey “appeared”. You can see how the caterpillar’s colors perfectly matched the owls’ feathers. This is a caterpillar from the Catocala (or Underwing) species of moths. I can’t figure out how the owl either heard or saw this prey item, unless it was moving during the night. But, how much noise does a caterpillar make?

The female has begun coming out of the nest box much more often then before. I believe this means that the young are growing up. Not only is the box getting more crowded, but she would have to fight to eat her own meals that her mate delivers. So coming out of the box gives her a chance to eat in peace perhaps. I have not seen the female actively hunting yet. When she is out, she is softly calling for her partner and waiting for him to return with food.

Here is a shot of the female Western Screech Owl out on another evening. She seems to be taking a quick nap with her eyelid half open and her nictitating membrane covering her open eye.

Shortly after that “nap”, she flew to the ground to get a drink. To give you some perspective, that water dish is just three inches deep and nine inches across.

And of course birds can’t ‘sip’ water. They scoop water up in their beaks and then tilt their heads back to let the water run down their throat. The owl always closed her eyes when taking a drink.

On another night she perched on a small branch waiting to locate her mate.

And while her look doesn’t really mean anything, but it sure looks like she means something.

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