WC Has a House Guest

Mrs. WC may be known to some of you as “the Owl Lady.” Or at least the most recent Owl Lady, the latest in a string who have shown owls to school kids across the Fairbanks North Star Borough. She’s out of the educational owl business now; there are no longer mice thawing in WC’s refrigerator.

Bu this past Fall we heard a Western Screech Owl singing in our urban Boise neighborhood. Sometimes pretty close to the house. So, at the insistence of Mrs. WC, we put up an owl box on our postage stamp-sized lot, fastening it to an evergreen.

And to our considerable surprise and delight, we have attracted a male Western Screen Owl. For this species, courtship involves finding a few different cavities in your territory that might be acceptable to a female, and then perching in them and singing in hopes that a lady owl will hear you and stop by. Which is what’s happening here. At least until WC interrupted the concert.

Western Screen Owl male, singing for a lady

Western Screen Owl male, singing for a lady

These are tiny owls, even smaller than Alaska’s Boreal Owls. If you look carefully, you can see two of his tiny talons on the bottom of the opening. There are Great Horned Owls in the neighborhood, too. A Western Screech Owl would be a tasty meal for a Great Horned; singing for a date is perilous business.

Western Screech Owls are nocturnal. It was close to complete darkness when this photo was taken. WC’s Canon 1D-X can take photos when it is too dark to see. This one is at ISO25600 – that’s not a typo – at 1/25th of a second at f4. Very near the limits for the camera. The owl’s large pupils tell you that it was pretty dark. The considerable amount of noise in the photo tells you the sensor was struggling.

There’s no assurance our little house guest will find a date, or that if he does she will approve of the “cavity” of this one nest box. But it’s a treat to have this little guy around. WC will keep you advised how the courtship proceeds. But in the meantime, we are enjoying our houseguest.


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