Build It and They Will Come
Eastern Screech Owl
by Robert Strickland
One Evening while I had the dog out in the back yard, I heard an Eastern Screech Owl make its trill call in front of the house. The next night I went out into the backyard and brought my cell phone with the iBird PRO App. I waited for the Screech Owl to make a call, and then I used the cell phone to call back to it. Suddenly I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and there he was just above me on the eve trough. I didn’t move and he stayed put for about 30 seconds or so, made a call and off he went.
Being a bird photographer, I wanted to get a photo of the screech owl, so I setup a pedestal in the yard to place a Bluetooth speaker on, set up my blind, and waited for the screech owl to call. It wasn’t long and the Screech Owl started calling. I made a call back, but he didn’t respond, so I made another call, after the second call, he called back, and then all of a sudden he came in to the yard and landed on the close line pole allowing me to get a photo. However it was quite dark and the photo was terribly grainy.
For the next few evening I made some calls and he would call back, so I knew the owl had taken up residence in the backyard. Then one night I went out to call but I heard him calling and I heard a response from a second owl. I continued to listen to them calling to each other for a while wondering if I had a pair. I figured if I had a pair there was good chance that they just might use a nesting box.
I did some Research and found that an Eastern Screech Owl is willing to nest in backyard nest boxes. The next day i got some plans and built a box for them. I placed wood shaving in the bottom as described and mounted the box on the end of my Purple Martin Pole. I set the pole to the highest it would go and left it alone. I watched it daily and there was no activity except for an occasional visit by a bluebird. I was starting to feel disappointed because there was no owl activity and I had not heard him now in a few weeks. I suspected the tree work the neighbor was doing had some influence on this.
A couple of weeks later my daughter and son-in-law Ernie were down for a visit, when he noticed something strange sticking out of the nesting Box. Ernie said to me “ hey it looks like an owl in the box”, Upon a closer look we could see the head of an Eastern Screech Owl sticking out of the hole. We watched him for quite a while then he flew out of the box. I was in Seventh heaven after seeing the owl in the box.
The next day I got up very early to check the box, when I walked near the citrus tree adjacent to the box, I heard some rustling and found a Screech Owl perched in the tree. I check the tree several times that day and found him there each time. That night I just sat and watched and I found one of the owls bringing some food to the nest box. My thought was that I have a nesting female screech owl in the box and the male is bringing her food. This went on a few weeks then one night I seen both owl fly off looking for food, so I concluded there was some owlets. Every night I would watch the owls and they would fly off and bring back food, such as lizards and bugs. This activity went on for a few weeks. Then one day I saw a head sticking out of the box and it was much smaller than the adult I had been seeing. I determined it was one of the owlets. Every evening, just before sunset I would see an owlet with his head sticking out of the box waiting for an adult to bring in food. This went on for a couple of weeks then the activity suddenly stopped. There was no head sticking out, nor was any of the adults coming to the box, this went on for a couple of days. I believed something serious had happen to the owls or they might have fledged so lowered the box down and opened it to find three large owlets. I immediately put the top back on and raised the box back up. I just keep thinking that something might have happened to the adults. Then in a flash one of the adults was on the side of the box. The Adults had returned. In retrospect I determined that the owlets were so large in box that the adults could not stay with the owlets, and the adults were staying in the trees nearby and the feeding activity went nocturnal. I further concluded there was nothing serious and the all the owls were healthy. In just a manner of a few days there was no more owls, non in the citrus tree, the box anywhere in the yard as the Eastern Screech Owlets fledged to the tree’s and I never did see them again.
In summary “If you build it they will come” holds true for the Eastern Screech Owls that visited my backyard.
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