The Western Screech-Owl Nests in Tree Cavities
Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii) photos by Larry Jordan
It’s been an interesting winter in my neck of the woods. Birders in Northern California have been treated to rare sightings of several species, sending avid twitchers from all over the west in our direction.
There is a Falcated Duck at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, Mountain Plovers and Northern Waterthrush near Sutter National Wildlife Refuge, a Blue Jay way out if its normal range in Chico, all three Scoter species at Turtle Bay in Redding and a Red-naped Sapsucker, American Tree Sparrow and Common Redpoll in Fall River Mills, counted on the Christmas Bird Count there. Personally, I’m waiting for the irruption of Snowy Owls to reach northern California!
I was able to find the Common Redpoll among the flock of Lesser Goldfinches and Savannah Sparrows. I even got a halfway decent photo of it before heading a few miles away to see the American Tree Sparrow and Red-naped Sapsucker. We dipped on the sapsucker but while we were there, a group of birders from Southern California stumbled upon this Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii) a few hundred yards from our location.
When we arrived at the house with the “No Trespassing” sign, atop which the bird was perched, it was sleeping peacefully until a couple of rowdy Western Scrub-Jays roused it from its slumber. I was actually glad they had woken the little owl allowing me to grab the photos you see above with its eyes open. Once the Jays moved on, the owl closed its eyes and went back to sleep, seemingly unconcerned with our presence.
This Western Screech-Owl was perched a couple of feet below what appeared to be its nest cavity, which you can see in a photo taken by Bruce Mast here. One of the cool things about this species is that they are year round residents in their territory. They are tolerant of humans and often nest and hunt in residential areas and suburban parks if suitable trees for nests and roosts are available. They also can be easily attracted to nest boxes (plans available here).
We have a pair of Western Screech-Owls near our house. They haven’t taken to the nest box I built, probably because there are so many available natural cavities in the area. We do hear them call though, especially this time of year.
If you are a bird chaser, you can get the latest rare sightings for Northern California on a couple of list serves, Central Valley Birds and Shasta Birders. You can also try the new Birding Lists Digest.
Good luck, good birding and here’s to a healthy and prosperous New Year!