In the 16 or so years that we have lived in Tucson, we have never been hosts to a family of Screech Owls. What a treat! I have to wonder, "Why Now?" And it would be reasonable to conclude that the pandemic has something to do with it. Wild animals are coming back to the populated areas because there is less noise, less distraction. Well, that would be a good conclusion, if we didn't live on 3.5 acres in the first place.
At first there was 1 in the rafters of the carport. The next day there was one on the patio light. Then there were two. Next day there were three just sitting there like they were lined up on a branch. I looked for information from the Southwest Wildlife Group on Facebook. I posted a pic. "Which one is the mom?" Someone answered. They are all owlets. Look for the mom on a patio light or deep in the trees nearby. Oh, you mean like this?
The owelets no longer have downy feathers. We call them Owlie, Bob and Weave. Or perhaps Moe, Larry and Curly. Owlie is the big one on the left. He does not have a sense of humor. Or maybe there is an adult in there somewhere. Perhaps the one on the left looks so stern because it IS the parent. You tell me if these three are all juveniles.
Owlets leave the nest about 4 weeks after hatching. How did I miss the mom for so long? She stays with them. I do remember seeing what I thought was a white wing dove in the nest. Owls do not build nests. They usually find a hole in a tree or saguaro and use whatever is in it for bedding.
At 6:30 last night, the owls were on the move once again. One on the ground, another on the chair. I thought they were leaving for good. This morning they are back once again. Word is they will do this until they can actually fly distances. About three weeks I am told.
I have found some facts about these birds on the internet. Specifically, this is the Western Screech Owl. Its range is from Washington and Idaho, down to Arizona, New Mexico and Old Mexico. They live about a dozen years. Their nests are not nests but hollowed out trees and saguaro, or in my case a dark corner in the carport previously inhabited by white-winged doves. Which is why I missed them during the incubation period which lasts around 30 days. How did I miss them for a whole month? Well, we don't drive much lately, which may lend a clue to why the male chose this spot.
None of the internet post that I read describe the experience of watching a family through the process. Now they will remain for 3 to 5 weeks. Every night after sunset they venture out, slowly coming down from their roost and flitting about the patio area, heading off for who knows where. Then they are back up on their roost when the dog and I get back from our morning walk.
I had hoped one day to find an owl in a saguaro, but the woodpeckers have taken up our saguaro for years. This is better. I watch them every day through our glass doors. And you can be sure they are watching us. Hope they come back next year.