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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Long Wait

Well, Momma Screech surprised me again on March 29 and one last time on March 31 with her fifth and sixth eggs. Now the books do say that an Eastern Screech Owl can lay from 2-8 eggs but this nest box is not really that large. Remember that before they fledge, the young owlets are nearly adult size so imagine 6 owlets the size of Momma squeezed into this nest box. We will have to wait and see what happens.

In the meantime, Momma has settled into a very consistant pattern. She is in the nest box day and night except for one short fly-out just after dark (right around 8:00 p.m. EDT) and a second just before daylight. Sometimes the male follows her back in the morning. At least once each night he visits the box, seldom entering but simply dropping a mouse or other (often unidentifiable) food in for Momma. One night I was able to catch her as she consumed this food. WARNING: Sometimes nature is not for the squeemish!

The owl's digestive system is uniquely designed to handle swallowing food whole. The digestible portions are passed down into the stomach while the undigestible hair and bones are regurgitated as dry "pellets". By collecting and examining these pellets, we can go back and figure out what that owl has been eating. In searching the yard, I have located the branch where it appears Momma and her husband meet each evening. The ground below the branch is a rich source of owl pellets.

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