Sunday, February 05, 2006

Screech followers

Photo by Bruce Yolton

On Friday a group of owl prowlers attended the fly-out of the West Drive Screech-owl pair. The first owl made exit at 5:35 pm., heading almost due west towards the park wall at Central Park West. Almost immediately another owl was visible in the opening. She looked around briefly , and then flew out in the same direction as the first at 5:40.

Both owls were quickly located on branches of trees in the wooded area near the wall, first in separate trees, and finally sitting together on the same branch. Then observers, who included many of the Regular owl crowd and three delightful, enthusiastic, soft-spoken and polite children named Emily, Hannah and Carolyn , witnessed a little owl altercation. One owl seemed to lunge at the other, as if to say "Get lost, Buddy. This is my territory." After that we saw one owl head north, and the first one, the lunger, head south.

Why did I refer to the second owl to fly out of the West Drive hole as a she? Owl Regular Bob Levy sent me the following bit of information:

Here's one source for my statement that male Eastern Screech-Owls leave the tree cavity first. This direct quote is from the Cornell University Birdhouse Network website:

Screech owls are highly nocturnal, and therefore are rarely seen hunting and feeding. How soon after dark individuals begin to hunt depends on weather and food abundance; males tend to begin hunting earlier than females. Their diet is the most varied of any North American owl species, and is region-specific. They feed on insects, crayfish, earthworms, and all classes of vertebrates, including songbirds, fish, amphibians, and small mammals such as squirrels, shrews, rabbits, bats, and rodents. The owls swoop down from their perch to capture their prey; they rarely hover while hunting. Screech-Owls cache uneaten prey items in cavities.