By Dan Weisz
The continuing story of this year’s Western Screech Owls in the nest box in my back yard:
The youngsters continue to be curious about their world. This look is one that could be found under the dictionary to define the word “cute”.
Dinner is served, and cockroaches are high in protein so a very good food source for those growing youngsters. Western Screech Owls eat a variable diet and are opportunistic hunters, grabbing whatever is edible at the moment.
A close-up of the mother Western Screech Owl’s wing feathers.
Occasionally the mother owl perches in the afternoon on the ladder leaning outside my house. At this stage, the babies are very large and it must be both crowded and hot inside the nest box. So mom often leaves the box at some point during the day. Here she is rousing as she gets ready for fly off for the evening.
And she adds a stretch to her rouse. I like how her wing feathers are fanned here.
Dad is both slimmer and smaller than his mate, typical in raptors. He is more reactive to our presence and will lift his plumicorns for a moment when he first spots us. Shortly afterwards he relaxes again and returns to watching the ground for prey. He is on a dead cholla branch here. Both adult owls perch only a few feet off the ground while hunting.
One of the young Western Screech Owls in the box. Until this point, we weren’t sure how many babies were in the box but this sequence was telling. The owl we were seeing had fairly smooth feathering. Remember how the Great Horned Owl babies had a fuzzy, downy feathering?
Then the head below popped up Wednesday evening. It is much fuzzier looking than the bird in the photo above. This confirmed to us that there were at least two baby owls in the nest box, and this one must have hatched a day or so after the first bird hatched. The average clutch size for Western Screech Owls range from 2-4 eggs and we now have at least two owl babies.
Parents are still out hunting nightly, beginning about twenty minutes after sunset.
And, yes, two owlets are confirmed!!! Although most times there is only one head in the opening, often the second bird will force its way up to get a peek out of the box. The usual tactic is to come up from under the first bird.
As of Friday evening, both owlets are still in the nest box. Fledging should happen any night now!