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Screech owl nesting time again

May 9, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

To the editor:

For the second year in a row, screech owls are raising young in the nesting box in my backyard. This is after a five-year drought of no nesting - who knows why! This may be the same pair that nested last year or grown chicks from last year's brood. Screech owls mate at one year, which is a good thing because they don't live very long.

I witnessed the pair mating this year. I bopped out my back door at dusk to see what they were up. I looked up. The male and I made eye contact. He immediately flew up to the waiting female, they mated in an instant and he flew off!

The chicks hatched a couple of weeks ago, and I can now hear them chittering during the day as well as at night when mom and dad deliver food to the nest box.

I see the parents usually at dawn while sipping my morning coffee. They pick anoles off of the screen enclosure to feed their young, capture beetles from the tops of the green buttonwood trees and take a refreshing dip in the bird bath before retiring for the day.

I recently saw the female leave the box during the warmth of an afternoon. This either means the chicks are now old enough to regulate their own body temperature or the box was warm enough without her - might be getting a bit crowded and noisy in there! She and the male will just be roosting for the day in a nearby tree.

I think the catbirds in my yard have decided to sleep elsewhere because the owls are really in the hunting mode at night. Yes, screech owls can eat small birds. Once I watched every catbird, cardinal and mockingbird in the neighborhood come together to perch and scream in the same sea grape at the same time - there was a screech owl roosting there close to the bird bath they all used. They ganged up and kicked him out!

The chicks should fledge in the next couple of weeks, so more owl stories to come. If you would like a screech owl nesting box for next year, they are available from the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation's Native Landscapes and Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead Preserve.

Dee Century

Living With Wildlife educator

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation



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