I photographed this family of Screech Owls this past week-end when I found them roosting in this tree in a small forested area by a river. The parent bird, located at the top of the photo, has prominent dark streaks on it’s chest. This is a small species of owl that is only 8-9 inches tall!
They come in a western and an eastern species which look much the same though they do sound very different and the western birds have dark bills. Where I live in Colorado there are Western Screech-Owls as these owls are.
It is difficult to see the second owl fledgling in the top photo but it can be seen peeking out, with big round, yellowish eyes, from behind the tree branch in this photo. It is a very young bird that likely only left the nest last week according to my observations of these birds. I think this is the very young owl that I saw climbing up a tree several days ago, using wing flapping to help it get back up the tree possibly after it fell from a branch above (they are quite awkward when very young).
This is a closer view of a parent bird. Screech-Owl parents are very protective of their young, roosting near them when they are very young and very willing to take on any threat to them.
Some years ago when I was following a different family of these little owls I apparently got too close to the babies and an adult flew at me, screeching loudly. It did not hit me with it’s talons but it’s feet were positioned to make it clear to me that it certainly could as it flew a few feet above me. It worked for me–I stayed a more respectful distance that was acceptable to the parent bird.
This is a closer view of the baby owl that was on the bottom of the tree in the photo at the top of the page. It still has some of the baby down attached to it’s feathers. No, it’s not missing it’s ears. The tufts showing on the parent bird are not ears but feathers that the bird can raise up or down.
One more photo of that baby owl cause it was just so cute peaking out through the leaves with that wide-eyed ‘what are you’ look.
Screech-Owls are found throughout much of the United States and some parts of Canada. Since they are so small, and they blend into their forested environment they are often overlooked (and can be difficult to spot even when one knows they are in the area).
Have you ever seen a Screech-Owl?
One way to see Screech-Owls up close is to check with your local raptor center to see if they have any of these little owls that are available for viewing. These groups house only raptors that cannot be released to the wild due to injury or being imprinted on people.