Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Nest Box Success

     About a year ago we installed three nest boxes designed for Eastern Screech Owl Megascops asio at SpruceHaven. We realized that we might not be successful in attracting birds the first year and indeed only one box was occupied, and that by Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris.
     This year, so far, I am happy to report that two of the three boxes have Eastern Screech Owl occupants. Actually that is not quite true, the box nearest the house had an owl there and Sandy managed to photograph it at the lip of the box, but it appears to have been driven off by starlings. Josh Pickering and I checked the box two days ago and there was no owl but a fairly substantial pile of leaves resembling the scruffy base of a starling's nest. I suspect that a screech owl could drive off one starling but a concerted attack by two or more birds might cause it to leave. We will be vigilant and turf out any starlings that try to usurp this nest. We have already removed the nesting material we found there.
     The second nest box is in the woodlot, a little farther removed from the starlings that congregate around the house and the barn, so we have our fingers crossed that the bird now occupying the box will find a mate and breed there. 
     We checked the third box - again no owl, but a clump of dry leaves which we tossed out.
     Josh ever so carefully lifted the door of the occupied nest box very slightly and by positioning his phone at just the right angle was able to get a picture without disturbing the bird.

     This little owl is quite common but often difficult to find since it is nocturnal and generally roosts in cavities during the day, out of sight.
     Over the past couple of years I have had a reasonable degree of success in finding this species and I am sharing below a few pictures. 
     The following owl was, I am quite sure, one of a pair and nested in a hollow tree not far from our house.

     Eastern Screech Owl is found in two colour morphs in our area, grey and rufous; grey predominates, so it was quite remarkable that both colour variants were seen at this site.

     I am confident that we would still have a pair of owls there had not the city in its infinite wisdom decided to remove the tree. It posed no danger to anyone; had it fallen it would have been far from the path, but I was dismayed one day when I walked along the trail to find the tree lying on the ground.
     The following grey morph bird was perched on a branch high up in a tree at Clair Lake Park in Waterloo.

     I always think that owls and rails are some of the most challenging birds to find so I am really hoping that by making homes available for them our screech owls at SpruceHaven will be with us for many years to come.


  1. Hi. I love your photos. These are amazing.

  2. Well done David, you caught the Eastern Screech Owl, so beautiful.

  3. I wish that the owl, which is in a house found a partner and had a family. Chases other birds from the cottage. Owl is beautiful. Regards.

  4. How wonderful. Your owl photos are brilliant and they are truly beautiful birds.

  5. Hi David and good luck with your boxes and well done with the results already. I agree with your sentiments, put up some boxes and get them to come to you, usually the most difficult thing in owling is finding the owl, you have a box and watch it and if your lucky you have a fixture, as you found out in our garden, all the best to you both, John

  6. Congratulations on the nestbox success.........

  7. Great to see the owls using the nestboxes !

  8. Don't think I've seen a Screech Owl since I was in public school.

  9. How good is that, think I recall those boxes being built.
    Never seen a sleeping own in reality.

  10. Hello David, congratulations with the new resident in your owl box. I hope the other two boxes will soon have new reseidents as well. Great captures of the Owl too.

  11. Hello, congrats on having the owl nest in your box. That is awesome. Wonderful collection of photos. Have a happy day!

  12. Hi David - a post on my favourite subject! How lucky am I? It's great to hear that your owl boxes at SpruceHaven are showing signs of success already. I do hope that you end up with regular residents in all three.

    I was very sorry to learn of the demise of the tree at the hands of the city powers-that-be. It must be very upsetting when it hosted such splendid birds - and both color morphs too!

    The owl in the last image is demonstrating just how cryptic its plumage is - wonderful!

    Thank you for a splendid, and beautifully illustrated, post!

    Love to you both - - - Richard

  13. A big well done David,nest box delights,always rewarding.

  14. Well done glad one of the boxes is occupied. Love the other shots. We hear little owls quite often and see them rarely, but I have never yet managed a photo! Diane

  15. Wow!!! Fantástico reportaje de estos pequeños autillos, me fascinan estas aves. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  16. Good to hear you threw out those European invaders David. Let's hope the owls get their act together and produce some youngsters for banding.

  17. I wonder what it is about owls!
    I know they say owls are wise ... and I'm sure they are!
    But they always look so cute somehow.

    So nice to see your photographs here.

    All the best Jan

  18. That's such a good thing you are doing. Oh my gosh those owls are hidden so amazingly. No wonder I never see them in real life.

  19. Such a beautiful bird! The first photo makes me feel sleepy. :)
    Owls are fascinating creatures.
    What a pity that the beautiful and important old tree was removed.
    Happy birding!

    PS It must be amazing indeed to see a giant flying squirrel.

  20. Well worth the job of placing the nest boxes and that are occupied by such magnificent birds

  21. Destroying that tree is not "infinite" wisdom to me but rather finite and no wisdom at all... How about plain stupid...
    At least 2 next boxes are occupied by Screech owls and that's a success indeed! Congrats!