Eastern Screech-Owl Chicks

Anna FasoliBanding, Science2 Comments

Between the American Kestrel nest boxes that I monitor in Marion and Levy Counties (for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Dr. Karl Miller), three boxes are occupied by nesting Eastern Screech-Owls!  Two families have hatched 2 eggs, and one has hatched three.  I don’t have any photos of when these owls were recently hatched, but check out this post, “Whats in the Box? Part Two” to take a look at the adults on their eggs.

From earlier box checks, I knew that the owl family I wanted to check on should have 2 babies at about 19 to 20 days old. This was just my best guess from observing chicks that I thought were about 2-3 days old a few weeks ago (if anyone thinks they are a different age, let me know!).  As soon as I pulled up to the box, which is mounted on a huge pine tree, an adult had it’s head sticking out.  From every angle, you could tell that this owl was not happy about my visit.

Eastern Screech-Owl adult at nest box

This owl is a brown type adult, but not a very vivid brown. I believe its mate has been in the box on occasion, and is more of a gray type adult.  As I opened the box, I was happy to see the 2 chicks had survived and were now almost adult-sized! Both were sleeping face down in the box.

Eastern Screech-Owl chicks in nest box

To get a better idea of their age, I sat them up, while the adult sat patiently (or not-so patiently) nearby, with a few bill claps.  These are the first baby screech-owls I have seen up close; their eyes were lined with pink skin that made them look more like hung-over people than owls, and they had lost the chick fluff around their eyes, giving them a masked appearance.

Eastern Screech-Owl chicks- about 19 to 20 days old (Rough night?)

Their feathers were mostly all developed, especially their primaries, and like baby kestrels at this age, they were still covered with a fair amount of fluffy chick feathers. And of course, feather tufts were visible on their heads, which will later help them blend in more with their surroundings.  Over the next week, I will check on the two other boxes of owls, and hopefully find at least one red type chick in one of the boxes!

Eastern Screech-Owl chick – about 19 to 20 days old

Left wing of young screech owl; it looks like both of these chicks will be the same color as the adult present in the box.