Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas and Screech Owls

We probably will not see any Eastern Screech Owls (Otus asio) on our own during the Four Holes Swamp Christmas Bird Count on Monday, but there is a possibility we will hear one or discover one due to mobbing activity by other bird species.  Screech owls are strictly nocturnal and vary in color from bright rufous to plain gray.  Beyond being nocturnal, the intricate pattern of their feathers make screech owls difficult, if not impossible, to see against a backdrop of tree bark.

Recently, a motorist brought in a gray adult Eastern Screech Owl that was in the middle of the road.  Although they struck the owl, it may have been standing in the middle of road after having been previously struck by a vehicle.  Note the bird's coloration and size in the hand of Mike Dawson, center director.

Eastern Screech Owl - Mark Musselman

Eastern Screech Owl - Mark Musselman

Eastern Screech Owl - Mark Musselman
Mike Dawson with Eastern Screech Owl - Mark Musselman
Two years ago, we found a rufous adult Eastern Screech Owl in the middle of Beidler Forest Road.

Eastern Screech Owl - Mark Musselman
Six years ago, we took a picture of a Barred Owl (Strix varia) in the road.  Unfortunately, we see many vehicle-struck Barred Owls along the roads in and around the swamp.

Barred Owl - Mark Musselman
It is not only owls in danger of being hit by vehicles, but other avian predators like the Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) shown below.

Red-shouldered Hawk - Mark Musselman

Red-shouldered Hawk - Mark Musselman

Red-shouldered Hawk - Mark Musselman
All of these predators perch near open areas like power line corridors and roadways.  Humans throwing food items or trash out of the window of a vehicle attracts prey animals to the road's edge.  Avian predators fixated on their prey will glide from their perch and risk getting hit by a vehicle as they fly low across the road.

Please keep you trash in your vehicle, so we can count all the owls and hawks during Monday's Christmas Bird Count!


Swampy said...

It has been reported that the screech owl has been rehabilitated, banded and released.

Unknown said...

I am so lucky! As I was unlockinga bdng door, my son son said "oh, man, is he so beautiful!" I came out looked up and in the eaves was a small owl, using a large basket of mine as a resting place! He wasnt two feet above me, and other than a studied look, he ignored me. His name is Tree Bark and tho he left last nite, he was back again this am. I am not letting ANYONE know where he is, nor will we be letting anyone else see him. He has to get used to my coming and goings and if he can't he is free to leave. I would like to know more about this breed as I thought they were very leary of man. We had barn owls years ago who didnt seem to mind us, but they were much largerthan this little cutie.

Anonymous said...

Ricki Most owls are described in literature as "tame", they aren't really of course. It would be more accurate to say they don't give a fig if a human is there or not. Screech owls are no to be particularly gutsy, and the local conservation center describes them as "cute as can be, but liable to take your nose off if you try and cuddle them."