Eastern screech-owl nesting behavior

We put up a nest box for eastern screech-owls on December 26, 2006, and owls moved in sometime in January 2007. We've seen them almost continuously ever since, and they use it for roosting when they aren't nesting. As you can see in the photos, it's made out of a piece of hollow log. It's a little bit bigger than most commercially available screech-owl boxes that are made from cedar boards, and I think they like it better. If you're going to put up a screech-owl nest box, make sure it's big enough.


Left photo: Screech-owl with a black rat on April 10, 2011 (iNat #20941573).

Center photo: Screech-owl with part of a bird on April 14, 2019, possibly a white-winged dove (iNat #22938371). At the same time, the male was perched about 15 yds away in a loquat tree.

Right photo: Screech-owl with part of a bird on April 21, 2020 (iNat #42818949). At the same time, the male was perched about 10 yards away on a limb of the same plateau live oak that the nest box was in.

These three photos show a screech-owl just perched in the entrance and holding a prey item. Is this typical behavior? I believe it is the female of the pair in all three cases that is holding the prey. Only the female eastern screech-owl incubates, the average incubation time is 30 days, and the average nestling period in central Texas is 28 days (Ritchison et al. 2020 Birds of the World species account). When we photographed the owl with prey on April 21, 2020, we thought she had been incubating for about the last month. We think the owls fledged on May 5, 2020, because we saw the nestlings a lot up to that date, but not after (see iNat #45656028 and 46286608). Is holding a prey item at the entrance to the nest box some kind of birth announcement?

Posted by cliftonladd cliftonladd, May 17, 2020 20:17

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Observer

cliftonladd

Date

April 14, 2019 11:32 AM CDT

Description

Eastern screech-owl in nest box with prey item (possible white-winged dove). At the same time, the male was perched about 15 yds away in a loquat tree (second photo). Photos copyright 2019 Brenda Ladd.

Screech-owls have used this box continuously, in all months of every year, since about a month after I put it up on Dec. 26, 2006. We have one other photo of an owl perched in the box holding a prey item (a black rat) in iNat #20941573, taken April 10, 2011 (same time of year within 4 days) (photo copyright 2011 Brenda Ladd).

Is this typical behavior? I believe it is the female of the pair in both cases that is holding the prey item; as noted above, the male was in the loquat tree during this occurrence. Is she just holding it for a while before consumption, or is this some type of display during nesting? Maybe she's just proud. I have not seen this behavior at other times of year.

I checked the BNA account and saw nothing regarding this behavior. I'd appreciate other people's thoughts. Maybe @greglasley @gcwarbler @cliffshackelford @sheliahargis or @maxallen will know. Thank you, @brendaladd for the photos!

Tags

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Observer

cliftonladd

Date

December 1, 2019 02:37 PM CST

Description

This nest box has had a lot of use since we put it up in 2007, and it might not last another year.

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Observer

cliftonladd

Date

December 1, 2019 02:37 PM CST

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Observer

cliftonladd

Date

January 25, 2020 08:18 AM CST

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Observer

cliftonladd

Date

February 7, 2020 03:27 PM CST

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Observer

cliftonladd

Date

February 29, 2020 11:27 AM CST

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Observer

cliftonladd

Date

April 11, 2020 12:26 PM CDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Observer

cliftonladd

Date

April 20, 2020 12:00 PM CDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Observer

cliftonladd

Date

April 19, 2020 05:13 PM CDT

Description

There are two screech-owls in this photo: the female in the nest box, and the male on a limb of the same plateau live oak, in the background in bottom of photo.

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Observer

cliftonladd

Date

April 21, 2020 10:55 PM CDT

Description

Eastern screech-owl in nest box with prey item (possible white-winged dove). At the same time, the male was perched about 10 yds away on a branch of the same tree (a plateau live oak). Photos copyright 2020 Brenda Ladd.

Screech-owls have used this box continuously, in all months of every year, since about a month after I put it up on Dec. 26, 2006. We have two other photos of an owl perched in the box holding a prey item: a black rat on April 10, 2011 (posted in iNat #20941573) and part of a bird on 4-14-2019 (posted in iNat #22938371)

Is this typical behavior? I believe it is the female of the pair in all three cases that is holding the prey item. On 4-14-2019, the male was perched in a loquat tree about 15 yards away.

In eastern screech-owls, only the female incubates, and the average incubation time is 30 days (Ritchison et al. 2020 Birds of the World species account). We think she was incubating for about a month before this picture was taken. Is holding a prey item at the entrance to the nest box some kind of birth announcment?

Photos / Sounds

What

Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Observer

cliftonladd

Date

April 24, 2020 08:46 PM CDT

Description

Female eastern screech-owl calling from entrance to nest box. Heard at 0:06, 0:24, and 0:47. A few seconds between the calls was deleted to shorten the recording. The owl was almost whispering. This recording was made at a distance of about 2-3 feet in front of the owl and about 8 feet below it (she is very used to our presence), using an iPhone 8 with a Rode VideoMic Me-L cardioid directional microphone and TwistedWave recording app. White-winged dove also audible.

Comments

Does the male stay inside the owl box during the day? or just the female and chicks?

Posted by pufferchung over 1 year ago (Flag)

I don't think the male even goes in the nest box except for some food delivery. According to the Ritchison et al. 2020 Birds of the World species account, only the female incubates. The males are usually close by, and roost closer to the nest after hatching. We can't see all of that going on in our nest box, but it all seems to fit with what we can see. How is your screech-owl nest doing?

Posted by cliftonladd over 1 year ago (Flag)

They are doing great! I haven't seen the chick during the day, only saw it once at night

Posted by pufferchung over 1 year ago (Flag)

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