Monday, September 17, 2012

Screech Owls

Western Screech Owls are not very big, but whoo-eeee do they ever pack a punch in the verbal department!  We've had a pair (and a youngster?) cavorting around our house, off and on, for a couple of years.  Sometimes they play right next to our about 3:am....

Woohoohoohohoohoooo-oooooo.  Or something like that.  It's hard to describe.  Wikipedia says, "The primary call is an accelerating series of short whistles at an increasing tempo then a long trill falling slightly at end. Other calls: barking and chuckling. They also make a high pitched screech."  Another website says it's like "a bouncing ball."      I would compare some of their calls to women screaming, sirens beginning to wail, or even drunken laughter.  With some beak-clicking and odd chirping thrown in for good measure.  They have a huge repertoire....many more sounds than I've read about on owl websites. 

The basic point is, though, that they are LOUD.  As in Really, Really LOUD.  Opera singers would love to have even half of a screech owl's ability to project. 

Early in the spring, we usually have a couple of red-tailed hawks nesting in the tall redwood trees behind our house.  They stay busy during the day.  By night, our featured guests are screech owls.  As I understand it, they like to live in tree holes left behind by flickers or woodpeckers.  Or in owl boxes.  I haven't seen any owl boxes, but we must have a nice place nearby, because the screech owls have been super noisy the last couple of weeks. 

Some Native Americans believe that seeing an owl may be a sign that death is lurking nearby.  Other folks believe owls are magical, or that they are a sign of wisdom.
One of my sons was given the animal designation of Great Horned Owl when he achieved his black belt in TaeKwonDo, so I'm on the fence about owls.  Are they good, or bad?  Not always. 
Whatever you may believe in regards to legends and stories, there's no doubt that owls are AMAZING creatures.  I once saw a TV special that featured an owl hunting in a dense forest.  The film showed how the owl fluffed up the feathers around his eyes in order to pinpoint his prey....before gliding quickly and soundlessly through trees to catch it.   Incredible.  And I have to admit that a bird that catches mice and rats is not a bad bird!! 

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