A Quirky Owl

Since Mama Screech vanquished the squirrel-squatter, she appears to be settling in for brooding quite nicely.   In the past 7 years of hosting these beautiful birds in my gardens, observance of the parent owls has been limited to early mornings (REALLY early) and evenings as one or the other parent quits the box for the nightly hunting forays.  Typically, I can observe one, or both, owls only for a few minutes, mostly as flashes and ghostly quiet movements between trees.

The mama owls that I’ve had in my gardens stay inside the brood house during the day for some of the time once eggs are laid, but I have rarely seen the mammas peering out during the day, except for early evening as the sleepy heads are awakening from the daily snoozing and before they’re “on” as nocturnal critters.  As the time approaches for the owlets to hatch, the mammas tend to spend more time in the brood box and once the owlets hatch (April-ish), mammas are in the box full-time, with dads posted in  nearby trees, attending fatherly duties and keeping a close watch on their little owl families.  It’s during this time that I have regularly seen the mammas, their little Screech Owl faces positioned in the hole of the box, for longer periods during the day.  If birds are squawking, squirrels are curious, or there’s any action in the garden, the mammas appear and are alert and visible to ward off possible dangers facing their owlets.

Each year that owls have settled in and raised a family has proven different from the last.  The first year, the owls were all over–I saw that couple and their offspring almost daily.  Last year, the owls were shy and discreet and I barely knew they were in residence and that was true for both the parents and their owlets.  Other years, I’ve regularly seen owls in nearby trees, sometimes not at all.

This year there is a different dynamic unfolding.

I fretted that Squirrel Nut-twerp would inhabit the box before the owls could lay their claim, but that’s no longer of much concern.  Now I’m anxious that Mama isn’t getting a good day’s sleep as she prepares for motherhood.  She’s awake and semi-awake,  her little face perched in the hole throughout daylight hours.  Here’s a brief pictorial of Mama Owl in her various moods these past few days:













…and really annoyed.


My theory on her diurnal awake state  is that she’s a new mama and is keeping close tabs on her surroundings–but I could be totally off-base. She’s not bothered by anything in particular–she watches the cats and dog when they stroll into her line of sight and pokes her head out when the birds are especially noisy, but seems nonplussed. One morning, I saw a squirrel (Nut-twerp?)  scramble along the branch and stand on the top of the brood box. Mama Owl clicked her beak in warning and retreated into the box. The squirrel skittered off.

Mama Owl isn’t unduly upset with us humans, either.  I had friends over Saturday evening, (for pi/pie day, what else??) and they all trooped out to look at the bees and the owl–she wasn’t fazed at all by being the center of attention and their oohing and ahhing at her darlingness.  She just looked at us, unimpressed, and blinked her big sage-green eyes.

She’s retired into her box more in the last 24 hours, so I’m hoping she’s getting some much-needed rest.  Mama work is hard–especially when you work the night-shift.


27 thoughts on “A Quirky Owl

  1. Yay for the squirrel eviction! I love all these “expressions” and, like you, get tremendous enjoyment from watching owls. We have a very bold mama owl this year too. I’m enjoying her frequent presence in the box hole.


    • Yes, the squirrel gave up the fight–for now, for this year. Interesting that your Owl Gal is “bold” too. Honestly, I thought maybe something was wrong with my owl at first, I’ve just never had one be out and alert so much during the day. She seems to have adjusted though and is spending more time inside the box. We’re also hearing lots of trilling during the night and early morning hours, which I love–such a nice way to wake up in the morning. Beats bad news on NPR.


  2. Oh she is gorgeous. These are great captures and I am thrilled you get to hear that nightly trilling. That sound is almost hypnotic. It is funny to watch how individual animals in urban settings have a range of ‘wildness.’ I have had some squirrel visitors that will tolerate me coming right up to them. One in particular probably would have ‘allowed’ me to refresh the feeder while she sat on it I am sure. But with others you just have to look in their direction (from inside the house) and they will scurry off like they just glimpsed a demon. It is the same for the birds around here. Loved your squirrel vs owl vignette. Even though they are awake at different times of the day they are in direct competition. I am certain either would eat the other’s young and both wanted the box. Snap snap. Careful squirrel …


    • The trilling is beautiful, as are the owls. She’s a looker, isn’t she? Her mate is quite handsome, too. I haven’t seen him in a few days and he’s always well-hidden in the verge of some tree.

      You’re right about urban “wildlife”–some are truly wild and others, well, not as much.

      I have read that squirrels will eat owl eggs–that amazes me, but maybe it’s true and I’m sure that an Eastern Screech would make a nice meal of a baby squirrel. I think I’ve mentioned this, but a few years ago a mamma squirrel moved in after the owlets left and raised a set of twins. That was also a fun thing to watch.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It sounds like you’re having a wonderful time watching over your owls! The two pictures of her being “annoyed” and “really annoyed” remind me of a Star Wars t-shirt my husband has. I think there are either 9 or 12 pictures of Darth Vader on the front and under each picture his mood is listed — angry, excited, proud, etc. — but each picture is exactly the same! Though, your owl does seem to be a bit more annoyed in that second photo. Great pictures!


    • I am enjoying my owl guest(s)! I know the t-shirt you’re talking about-ha, that’s true. That last pic is very similar to the one before, but I do think she’s trifle more annoyed.


    • I love sneaking peeks at Ms. Mamma Owl, but I do attempt some respect for her privacy and keep some distance. She’s pretty relaxed, I think, and comfortable in her brood box. I’m wondering if the eggs have hatched????


    • I’m glad Mamma Owl prevailed too! I must confess to some species prejudice–I really prefer to have the owl in the box and not another squirrelly squirrel.


  4. I’m so jealous of your owls! I’ve already chased off two starlings (or maybe it was the same guy) and a squirrel (aka “nut-twerp”, aka “tree rat”). Between you and Pam already having owls nesting, I feel like I’ve missed the boat this year…I guess I’ll see. What time are you normally spotting your momma owl? Maybe I’m just not up early enough or home early enough to catch her (wishful thinking). I can’t wait to see your little babies!


    • I’m sorry you haven’t had an owl couple move in yet. It’s probably too late this spring, but it could happen. I usually begin to hear the owls trill in December–I think it’s typically the male who calls first and in fact, hangs out in the house for a while. They have their courtin’ and breedn’ and then mama settles in about March. Now.

      I hope to get shots of the owlets–so, so cute they are!!


  5. You might not think a feather covered face would be very expressive but your photos prove that the owls are not simply sitting there – they are keeping a very keen eye on everything (and everyone) around them.

    I always wonder if these owls ever gather and compare notes…”Do the tall naked birds come out and aim their extra eye at you all the time? Mine are relentless!”. : )


    • I agree that owls are remarkably expressive–those big eyes, that head set in just the right angle–such interesting birds. As for whether they recognize us, I’ve wondered that myself. I try (really try) to not bother them too much or be too conspicuous with my owl watching. Owls move in every spring, so it can’t be too bad a place, right?


      • I am pretty sure your photographic efforts aren’t bothering the owls in the least. They’ve been living close to humans for hundreds of years so they’ve got to be used to our curiosity by now, don’t you think?


    • Both mom and dad will be around quite a bit once the owlets are out and about in the brood house. Eventually, mamma will not be able to stay in there wit the babies–too much owl in too little space.


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