Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Owlets on the 17th

As people following my notes on the screech owl cam’ page will be aware, on the 17th I brought down the nest box mid-afternoon in order to remove a worrisome build-up of what appeared to be fire ants (the small, vicious, invasive species we have here in central Texas; not the big, relatively relaxed natives that live further north in Texas). Needless to say, I took the opportunity to photograph the owlets on this occasion.

The scene when the nest box was opened. It may be a mess, but it’s home.

One box of owlets to go.

Removing the ants from the nest box meant removing the owlets, too. As long at they were all together, they didn’t mind. Also, it was a lot cooler in the open air and shade than it had been in the nest box. They didn’t mind that, either.

Their mother, by the way, watched all of this with remarkable calm from perches on various tree limbs, all within about 25 feet of the owlets and me. I’d hoped she’d be able to stay around to oversee the entire process, and thus see that I would not do anything to harm her owlets, but birds chased her away long before the process was complete. And, since owlet no. 4 had to go in for medical care, she probably does regard me as a threat now. Oh well. If it’s a choice between helping an owlet and being trusted, I’ll help an owlet every time.

Owlet no. 1

I am no longer interesting, but the just-noticed, great big outside world is fascinating. All further attempts to get the owlet to look at me or the camera fail completely.

Owlet no. 2

When it’s nap time, any comfy place will do.

The action sequence: Turn head and yawn.

Owlet no. 3

“Whatever. Just let me sleep.”

Owlet no. 4

I really thought this little one had been a victim of the fire ants, and when I emailed a similar photo to my raptor rehabber friend, Sallie, she was on her way to give owlet 4 all the help she could (and to give the others a once-over while she was at it). Since being taken into Sallie’s care, it has been discovered that most of what looks so awful in this photo is a bloody cedar waxwing feather that had dried across the owlet's eyes, gluing itself firmly in place. The feather was removed with great care, and the damage from the feather and the parasites appears superficial, although we wait anxiously for no. 4 to open his/her eyes and lay all lingering concerns to rest.


  1. Great, great, great! Really fun to see this detailed report!

  2. cmf, hat creek, ca12:28 AM CDT

    Wonderful photos Chris. Thanks for the update.

  3. astounding photos. thanks for sharing them

  4. Chris, I was there any chance that the mother owl will reject her fourth owlet the longer it is away from her?

  5. Alison in Indiana1:58 PM CDT

    Wonderful post and photos. Thank-you.

  6. Thank you for what you do for the owls. I have enjoyed your site for several years!!! They are so cute, and so lucky.

  7. Lorraine,

    No, no chance, in my experience. Nor am I aware of any reports of such rejections. Whether she we will know it is her owlet or not, I can't say, but she has a fantastically strong instinct to take care of owlets right now, and that’ll apply to any owlet that suddenly appears in the nest, whether it was originally one of hers or not.


  8. So glad to hear that she'll be happy to take Owlet #4 (and apparently #5 now!) back with open wings. Keeping my fingers crossed that baby 4 opens his/her eyes soon. Thank you for all you do. I realize it's an enormous amount of work.

  9. Nice job and great photos!