Western Screech Owls In Dan’s Backyard — Part II, Restless Youth
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The baby screech owls (“owlets”) in Dan’s backyard grew up at an amazing pace. At birth these birds were helpless and tiny. Over a period of about a month they would double in size every few days, add juvenile plumage, and attain the ability to fly. For the first couple of weeks after hatching in mid-April the owlets were invisible, nestled deep within the nest box.
Throughout the owlets’ development the parent birds continued to attend to their every need. The mother owl’s routine often included taking a quick drink before heading off to hunt.
The father continued to deliver food to the owlets. His hunting skills are impressive. On some evenings he’d deliver prey to the youngsters several times an hour. One mid-May evening I photographed him with a freshly caught lizard, a Western Banded Gecko.
By mid-May the owlets had become increasingly restless. Often, one of them would poke its head out of the nest box and check out its surroundings.
A certain amount of sibling rivalry was on display as the owlets’ curiosity about their environment increased.
It was inevitable that these youngsters would leave their nest box. Typically, young raptors explore their immediate environs before first taking flight by hopping and clambering around the branches adjacent to their nest. Dan and I expected to see these owlets doing that, but we never did. However, one late May evening, one of the youngsters briefly emerged from the nest box and clung precariously to its outer surface before retreating to safety.
We knew then that fledging was imminent.
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite. All images shot at ISO 400 and 1/160. The first image shot at f13, all others at f9.