Eastern Screech Owl Nest Observations

Friends told us of an Eastern screech owl nest in a wood duck box on a farm in Rockingham County, Virginia.

We photographed owls feeding young on May 15, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, and 29 of 2010.  Combined, we had cameras set up for 18.5 hours of feeding time on these dates.

The screech owl nest had two young in it.  The parent with the young in this photo is a red phase Eastern screech owl.  The other parent was a gray phase.

When the nest was first discovered, a small perch and a frog were in the bottom of the nest box. We also had some surprising discoveries concerning the food brought into the nest. 

The gray phase Eastern screech owl in-flight bringing a night crawler to young owl.

An Eastern screech owl in-flight bringing a night crawler to young owl.

An Eastern screech owl in-flight bringing a night crawler to a young owl.

An Eastern screech owl in-flight bringing a night crawler to a young owl.

A red morph phase Eastern screech owl in-flight bringing a night crawler to nest.

An Eastern screech owl in-flight bringing an earthworm to nest.  Besides the surprise of the owls bringing night crawlers to the nest in the first place, it was interesting to observe how they did this.  Usually the night crawler was held in the beak by one end, and the other end was often in front of the owl pointing toward the nest hole.  While the owl may be braking to land and inertia carried the worm outward, it seems there was enough consistency to the action that the owls may have been tossing the worm with a movement of their heads.  Notice how high this worm is.  Was this by inertia alone, or did the owl toss his/her head?

Out of 102 trips into the nest with prey, these Eastern screech owls brought 69 night crawlers to the young.

An Eastern screech owl in-flight bringing a minnow to the nest.

Minnows were brought to the screech owl nest 10 times.

One photo shows an Eastern screech owl in-flight bringing a crayfish to a nest.  Notice the wet feathers on the breast.  This photo is in silhouette because the flash batteries had died in the front flash, leaving only the backlight flash to illuminate the bird.

This in-flight Eastern screech owl is bringing a moth to the nest.  Two times we got photos of a moth being brought.

An Eastern screech owl in flight carrying a May beetle to a young owl. 

We got three photos of beetles being brought to the nest.

This in-flight Eastern screech owl is bringing a catocala larva to the nest.  Two times we got photos of caterpillars being brought to the nest.

Fifteen times we were not able to determine what prey the screech owls brought to their young.

Seventy-eight times our cameras also caught photos of the screech owls leaving the nest after taking prey to the young.

None of the owl nest photos were staged.  We simply hung cameras and recorded a small segment of the young being fed by their parents.

These in-flight photos were made possible by using a Phototrap infrared trigger to fire our cameras.  We usually had two cameras hooked up to the trigger so we could capture two angles each time the Phototrap was activated. 

 

We do provide food for the birds that use our yard, which occasionally includes the screech owls that nest nearby. 

We also use the Phototrap to capture these shots of in-flight screech owls capturing prey.

 

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