Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Owl romance continues

Photo by Lloyd Spitalnik
DATE: Tuesday, 13 December 2005
LOCATION: Central Park

Here’s an update of the seemingly “on-again-off-again” relationship between the red and gray morph Eastern Screech-Owls in Central Park. Today the relationship was most definitely on again. After sunset I positioned myself opposite the gray morph’s tree cavity. At 4:56 PM the gray morph popped up into the opening. Instead of first scouting the surrounding area before exiting, as I expected it to do, this screech-owl wasted no time placing one foot on the rim
of the entrance and then the second. I took this to mean it would be making a quick exit. I readied myself so I might not miss the bird’s flight. Instead of seeing the gray morph bolt out of the hole a second screech-owl popped into view. It was the red morph Eastern Screech-Owl. It nestled a little below the
other bird with its head pressed against the other bird’s flank. For a few seconds the two owls sat motionlessly in this pose and I thought to myself, “They really do make a nice couple.” About thirty seconds passed while they held this pose, then the gray morph shot out of the cavity. I assumed it would quickly be gone but the owl perched about fifteen feet away, almost directly opposite my position. The red-morph made its exit too but this owl disappeared into the trees to the west. Meanwhile the gray morph stayed put, looking around but never in my direction. Less than a minute passed when the red morph made two calls. This was all the gray morph needed to hear and the bird darted in the direction of the sounds. I followed but could find neither bird. These two birds are giving Central Park birders an education in owl relationships. A birder never knows when they might be seen together or apart. They contrast with another pair not very far away that are consistently seen in each others company.

Lloyd's photo of the Gray-morph Screech-owl was taken on November 30, 2005, at its roost-hole near the rowboat lake.