Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Screech Owl Nest

Photograph by Robert Pitman

Several people gathered at the Pitman Ranch to enjoy last weekend. While checking and cleaning all his bird houses and building habitat as part of his wildlife management plan, a Screech Owl with egg was found in one nest box. Surprised, the crew quickly closed the box and left it alone. Watching the box from afar became the ensuing activity. It appears the owl was not disturbed enough to abandon the egg—good news.

Many cavity nesting owls have suffered declines in their populations owing to habitat loss and logging operations. Habitat loss is associated with human residential development. Logging, particularly clear cutting, removes suitable nest cavities, roosting places and hunting areas. Nest boxes have tremendously helped to reverse this situation.

The Screech Owl is a species that seems to have benefited from residential development. Nest boxes placed in neighborhoods with mature trees provide opportunity for increased survival of this species. Also contributing to the increase may be the heat island effect, lower densities of predators, and availability of prey associated with bird feeders.

Interesting fact: most people believe owls and hawks are closely related. It is not unusual to hear the misidentification of an owl as a hawk. However, based on DNA analysis, ornithologists have determined that owls and nightjars and nighthawks are closely related. No relationship exists between owls and hawks.

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