May 25 Update
Life After Fledging
On Tuesday, May 25, my neighbor a block down the street found a weak little owlet sitting on the ground in his yard. Afraid that a cat would get it he put it in a cage. He told me he even tried to feed it but it wouldn't eat. It was little, probably the youngest of the owlets (owlet #5). When nightfall came we set the owlet out in hopes that the parents would find it and feed it.
On my way home from his house I saw a screech-owl laboriously fly across the road and land on a telephone wire across the street from my house. The owl had a robin (or a similar sized bird) in its bill. It looked like large prey for such a small bird. I also noted that the rest of the owl family seemed to be in the area so I went back down to the neighbor's house and we brought the owlet up the street and released it near its family.
I watched for awhile as the whole family of screech-owls gathered on a telephone pole to feast on the robin (the whole family, that is, except for little owlet #5 who was too weak to fly up to the "breakfast table.") The family eventually moved on leaving the little owlet all alone. Now that the owlets are more mobile the family seems to roam widely throughout the neighborhood.
When I went back out to check on the owlet a little later I couldn't find it on the perch where I had left it. I found it lying face down on the ground, tail up in the air. I brought the little owlet home, it was apparent that it wasn't going to make it. It couldn't balance, stand or even hold its head up. I guess the poor thing either had been injured, was sick, or starved because it was just too small to keep up with the rest of the family. The youngest in a brood of owls often dies. I guess that is just part of the experience of having owls living in your yard. The good news from that night was finding that the other four owlets were healthy and well.
Four day later (May 29) I found the four owlets in an aspen back near the nest box and later that evening I even saw some of the owlets hunting for food themselves. It looked like they were catching tiny insects or spiders (practice makes perfect). Maybe someday they will be skilled enough to catch a robin themselves. One of the parents flew in from across the street, landed on the telephone wire and called to the young, "yak, yak." It then flew back across the street. The owlets did as they were told and followed.
If my owl pair are able to raise four owlets to adulthood I would say they are having a very successful year. This was the second year I have had owls nest in my nest box. I hope they raise a family each year in my yard.
4 Owlets in Aspen Near Nest Box
(May 29, 2004)
More Pictures of the Owlets in the Aspens
(May 29, 2004)
Links to More Western Screech-Owl Fun
• For a good overview of Western
Screech-Owl natural history
• For a look at life inside a Western Screech-Owl nest box
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Build You Own Nest Box - Plans & Instructions (PDF)