Do you have trees around your home with some open areas of lawn? You may have an Eastern Screech Owl in your backyard! Less wary of humans than many other birds, this small owl occupies the broadest variety of habitats of any owl in the U.S., eating a wide range of foods (insects, earthworms, crayfish, small birds and rodents). All they need is a suitable tree cavity or nest box for nesting – “If you build it, they will come.”
Photographer Peter H. Connelly bought a nesting box and outfitted it with a camcorder. He has watched the owls every spring (March to June) build a nest and nurture their brood. Peter observed that the female spends most of her time in the box, leaving only briefly at dusk. The female incubates the eggs for one month. Once the eggs hatch, the male spends his night bringing food to the entrance for the chicks, giving it to the female or just dropping it in. With his Canon 7D and Canon EF-S 18-200 mm lens, Peter photographed these two young owls peaking out of their box the day before fledging.
When alarmed, Screech Owls emit squeal-like, not terrifying screeches. Their most commonly heard call is a rather quiet descending trill, often used as one of the spooky night sounds in graveyard horror films.
Similar to the much larger Great Horned Owl (up to 16“), these tiny owls (7″-9”) have “ear” tufts of feathers (not really their ears which are instead on the side of their heads beneath feathers). Difficult for others to see, especially at night, with camouflaged coloration like surrounding tree bark, Screech Owls sit very still and wait for unsuspecting prey to scurry into view, then make a straight perch-to-prey snatch.
Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society