By Dan Weisz
Western Screech Owls are common in the Foothills area. I have a nesting family in my yard for the second year in a row. Below is an update on how those owls are doing:
During the past week and a half, the Western Screech Owl behavior continued to be unpredictable. I believe that our recent strange and variable weather may have something to do with it. That may be why the nesting season is about two weeks later than last year, but the cool days and wind seems to have also impacted the owls’ nightly hunting behavior. Whereas last year the male would often leave for the hunt about a half hour after sunset while the female remained in the nest and then he would return to the nest quickly, he now is hunting far away from the house and there are some evenings where he won’t return to the nest until after I have given up and retreated into the house. Still, there has been some nice action:
Since I sent out the last pictures, for another week or so the female would leave the nest at the same time that the male flew from his perch. While he was out in the desert hunting, she remained on the back porch, waiting and occasionally hooting for him.
On one leg.
Sometimes she would get a drink of water while waiting. Check out those lightly feathered eyelids.
One evening the male returned early with a nice treat: a Kangaroo Rat. After waiting for several minutes for the female to call from within the nest, the male placed the rat in his mouth and readied for the food delivery.
However, the female didn’t call to him so he put the rat down again and waited and waited.
Eventually he flew off into the desert. I don’t know whether he ended up eating the rat himself or if he delivered it to the nest much later.
Another resting spot. The female would mostly wait silently and still, sometimes calling and sometimes looking around.
The male owl always seemed to be on the lookout for food. He twitched and turned and looked around constantly, responding to sounds of the desert that I couldn’t hear. As this owl looked around, it kept bumping up against the twig hanging down in its back.
To give you some perspective, here is the male owl on one of the Shepherd’s Hooks in my yard. He looks small.
One night while beginning his hunt, he perched on this shepherd’s hook. Besides standing on one leg and holding his other motionless but in ‘attack’ mode, he gave me quite the stare.
And the look of the male again as he hunted from the mesquite tree.
And the female is now usually remaining in the nest. She rarely makes her appearance. This night, she was looking for her meal. This profile view gives you a great look at her beak or bill shape. Owls’ bills are curved downwards in order to keep the owls’ field of vision clear. As in all raptors, their bills are hooked in order to specifically grip and tear prey