1/22/2008

When do Screech owls move in?

I've done some more research, looking at when Screech Owls actually select their nesting site. Basically I am trying to find information to back my theory that I am still in the race for attracting Screech owls ;-) This is obviously a fact as it seems to be pretty common for owls to select a nesting site that they haven't used for roosting during the rest of the year.

I found this VERY interesting nugget on the New York Wild webcam site:

BreedingPairs of screech owls mate for life after a somewhat elaborate courtship that involves the male swiveling his head, bobbing his body up and down and winking his eyes. If the female appreciates his efforts she moves close, they touch bills, and mutual preening ensues. A Screech Owl will find a new mate if one of the pair dies. It has been reported that male Screech Owls will on occasion form pair bonds with a second female in good habitat with abundant prey.
Nesting occurs in natural tree cavities primarily in deciduous trees. Screech Owls will also use tree cavities made by large woodpeckers such as the flicker and pileated woodpecker. As with most owls, no attempt is made to bring in nest materials. Screech Owls will readily accept suitable nest boxes such as those designed for kestrels.

Owlman: Here comes the real interesting stuff now...
With our nest box, visits by the owls started about a month before the owls moved in permanently. Typically, we would see an owl enter the box and stay for about one to five minutes. Visits occurred just after dusk, in the middle of the night, and just before dawn. There was a flurry of activity about 3 weeks prior to the owls moving in, but then they disappeared and did not show up again until just a few days before moving in. Then the male would get in the box and make a long trilling call and the female would then enter the box. Both owls would then be in the box together with the possibility of some mating behavior observed. The female made a number of attempts to scuff the nest material that we had placed to attract a squirrel into a nest shape. She would shuffle her feet as she turned in the nest to flatten and shape the timothy hay in the nest. Note that this is not the ideal substrate for an owl, but the box was set up for squirrels. Wood chips or sawdust would be more suitable. The female did not stay in the box during the day until just a day before laying the first egg.

It will be interesting to see when/if my Screech owls return and whether their behavior mimics that the site above noticed. Actually seeing a live object in the box today was exciting and the amount of detail from the camera was truly amazing. The main reason why the squirrel was evicted to quickly was because he was climbing up to get a better view of the spycam. We all know that squirrels LOVE to chew stuff and there was no way I'm buying a new cam on account of flying rat. BTW, I couldn't get the video to play on the New York Wild webcam site. Does it work for you?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

We have had a nesting box up for 6 months and in the last month one owl has come about 3 times stayed for a day and leaves. Is that normal? Will it stay permanently? It is very exciting.

Owlman said...

Very exciting news! During this time of the year the owls are looking at potentials sites. The fact that they have spent some time in your box is excellent news for you. Closer to nesting season you should see more of the owls. Keep me posted on your progress.