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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Update, Video, and Question

Over the past week, the screech owls have been around but were not seen, either in the video or in the yard on either January 17 or 18.  I record every night from at least dark until dawn and log in a spreadsheet, every arrival and significant (and some not so significant) observations.  The following video is a clip from last night (1/19-20).  At 1:40 a.m., one of the owls (the one I have been calling Momma) was in the box, the second owl arrived and they almost instantly changed places.  Here is the action:

Now the question:  Many references discussing the Eastern Screech Owl mention that the male selects the cavity and then attracts the female by calling.  The female selects the male with the "best" nest cavity and presumable voice as well.  They are also believed to mate for life (of course if one passes away, a new mate may be found).  If one were to judge only on the above video, one would assume that the first owl was the male, and owl 2, the female.  I believe it is the other way around.  Evidence:

1)  This nest box has been used for 7 straight years.  The female (and if fact every owl I have ever seen looking out of the nest box including last night) has always been a gray phase bird.  The average life of a wild screech owl is about 14 years. I am assuming that the one in the box first last night is the same female that has been here for years.
2)  The difference in coloration (can't really see color in the night videos unfortunately) suggests that owl 2 is a red phase.  (NOTE:  the phase color does not indicate gender).  Two years ago the male was definitely a red phase, but last year, I am pretty sure they were both gray phase.  If the above are true this is a new male.
3)  In the video on 1/12, the owl in the box (tonight's owl 1) left for 12 seconds and returned with a grub--too quickly I believe to have dug it up on its own.  That suggests that the owl that was not visible provided it to owl 1--typical behavior for a courting male.

We will all have to keep watching to find out for sure.


Scott said...

Hi, I have been monitoring a handful of boxes, and I have had 2 sites that the female was first on site the first year. and first to be seen in the fall the following years after nesting each. it was nice as they both were mixed pairs.
hope you won't mind me linking to your site as well. I saw it over the summer, but wanted to wait until it was active again. thanks.

Owlman said...

Any updates from 2013? I'm based in NJ and trying desperately to attract a Screech Owl to my owl box. Looks like your owls consistently lay their eggs in early March. Do you see/hear much activity during this time? I have yet to see or hear anything from my newly located box. I think I'm going do a physical check this weekend.

Michael P said...

Thanks for the comment Scott and Owlman. I will have much more to share. I welcome direct e-mail as well but haven't figured out how to share my address (Blogger won't post) but a little sleuthing and you should be able to find me. Owlman--good luck with your box.