Screech owlet makes a surprise June appearance


June 07, 2020

Screech owlet

We’ve had a lot of screech owls nest in our owl box over the past 10 years. But after we lost our owl tree and had to relocate the box, it sat empty all last year, to our disappointment. And until two days ago, I didn’t even realize we had a nesting female again. But we do, and there’s at least one owlet in the box!

Adult female screech owl

Here’s mama owl, whom we’d seen in the doorway on occasion, although she’s so skittish she’d hide as soon as we stepped outdoors. Past owls have been content to doze in the doorway all day, once the chicks get big and are taking up all the space in the bottom of the box. But not this mama, even though the box is now farther away from our house. Also, previous owlets have always fledged around Memorial Day, so we thought it was simply too late to expect to see chicks.

But on Friday, as I glanced out my office window at the box, I saw the fuzzy, white-gray head of an owlet peering out. What joy! I took a few photos through the window with my zoom lens, fearful of scaring it off if I stepped outside.

He or she bobbed and gazed around at the big new world. I kept hoping for a glimpse of another owlet, but I only saw the one. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another one in there, working up the courage or strength to peer out.

At twilight, I walked down to the pool patio and sat quietly in a chair for about 45 minutes, listening to the faint trills from the parents in the trees behind our property. Mom or dad was sitting on a juniper branch just beyond the fence.

As it got darker, the owl opened its eyes and grew more alert, at one point lifting its wing to scratch an itch.

With a hungry owlet to be fed, soon it was time to hunt.

Screech owl delivering dinner to an owlet in the box

Although I couldn’t locate the second adult, I assume that both parents are feeding the chick. Just before it grew dark, I watched two feedings at the box, as a silent-winged parent swooped low through the garden and onto the tree limb, then hopped over to the opening with whatever small rodent, insect, or reptile it had captured. My guess is always tree roach. There are plenty to go around.

Last evening, from the far side of the pool, our family watched the dark shapes of swooping owls making another feeding run. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see owls nesting in our garden again!

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