Monday, April 04, 2005

Screech-Owl Mystery: Two More Experts Respond

Photo by LINCOLN KARIM - 3/31/05
Adult Eastern Screech-Owl
taken just before Fly-out

First an UPDATE on 4/4/05.

As of yesterday the owl family was still in the same North Woods area they have been at for the last two weeks. [Why so vague about the location? Birders' Etiquette requires that nobody post locations of owls since they are vulnerable at their daytime roosts. If you are a birder or simply a bird lover and want to find these owls, find any other birder in the park. Binoculars are the clue! You will be directed to the owls.] There at the flyout were: Donna Brown, Kelley Harrison and myself. The owls were in a new spot, an evergreen, where they were harder to see, and we positively saw only the three kids and one parent. The likelihood is that the other adult was in a nearby tree. The flyout was at about 7:35 DST.

After flyout we followed the owls' sounds and relocated them in the woods to the northwest of their daytime roost. The three owlets were chittering on a low branch and the parents were in attendence. How did we see them in the dark? Kelley Harrison has remarkable eyesight. She easily located them as they moved from branch to branch.

It was a bit creepy up there. The territory was unfamiliar for the three of us. Without a larger group, or the presence of a few larger people, say someone over the height of 5'4" -- our maximum-- we prudently, though reluctantly, decided not to follow the little owls when they flew deeper into the woods toward the Blockhouse area. To tell the truth, I don't venture into that area happily in broad daylight. The quantity of crack vials that litter the ground there tell a story.


Eric Salzman writes in response to my query --[see below]:
Marie, . . . It's gotta be the earliest New York nesting by, not just weeks, but months! I'm going to make an educated guess that Screech Owls, although usually considered to be non-migratory, in fact usually move around in cold weather and have to reoccupy their territories every year. Perhaps the introduced owls had nowhere to go and hung around, finding enough food even in cold weather to keep them in or get them back into breeding condition unusually early. It's still quite remarkable. Eric


I found a reference to "early nesting" of E. Screech Owl in Minnesota on the Minnesota Ornithologist's Union site, apparently in their publication "The Loon", Vol. 67, 182 - but it seems they don't have the actual article or notation available online, nor the "early" date. As you say, many references give late March as an early nesting, ie egg-laying, period. Have you looked in the BNA account?

From Starr Saphir -- 4/3/05
. . . As these adults are introduced, they may have screwed-up clocks. I'm sure you know that , in introduced birds, an established breeding population (considerably more than one pair) must be present for at LEAST 10 years, and those first 10 generations can never be counted. Lenore said that one or more birds are still findable in the trees near the Pool at 103rd St. and CPW Cheers! Starr

An important postscript: There was one previous Screech owl pair that successfully bred in Central Park. That was a few years ago, maybe in 2002. [I'll check]. Again, I don't yet have the exact data, but many remember that then too the fledglings showed up preternaturally early.