Western Screech Owls (Part I)

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A friend told me recently that there was a pair of Western Screech Owls that was nesting in a Saguaro Cactus just outside of his backyard. He invited me to come over one evening to photograph them. I needed no prompting.

There are three species of Screech Owls — Western, Eastern, and Whiskered — that inhabit various regions of North America. Western and Whiskered Screech Owls show up in southern Arizona with the Western species being by far the more commonly seen. They are remarkably handsome little owls. An adult is not much bigger than my clenched fist.

My friend told me that “his” Screech Owls were regular visitors to his yard. As it turned out, we waited only a few minutes after sunset for one of them to alight on a favorite perch, a large olive tree.

Male and Female Western Screech Owls have identical plumage, so one cannot use plumage as a way of distinguishing gender. Females are sometimes a bit larger than are the males, but the size differences are subtle and of no benefit to identification when one bird is perching by him- or herself.

That said, I believe that this bird may be the male of the pair. That’s because when I first photographed him it was relatively early in the breeding season and the female was likely to be on eggs and not out and about.

He seemed unfazed by our presence nearby. I happily photographed him for a minute before he took off, undoubtedly hunting to support his family.

Western Screech Owls nest in cavities. In this instance the pair had taken over a Gila Woodpecker nest sight in a Saguaro. They apparently have been successful in raising offspring — my friend tells me that they remain very active in his yard at night and in the immediate vicinity. I returned to his property recently and made more images, which I will post soon. I’m hoping also to capture images of the fledgling owls once they’re out of the nest.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, illuminated with Canon 600EX-RT accessory flash, stabilized by monopod. ISO 1000, f5.6 @ 1/160.

3 Replies to “Western Screech Owls (Part I)”

  1. cintwigg says:

    Those eyes pop!

  2. picpholio says:

    The eyes of this owl are more than fascinating ! Wonderful captures and thanks for the information about this owl.

  3. Ron says:

    The “Eyes” have it!

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