By Joe Reynolds
Have you heard it? Screech owls have been busy recently.
I heard a few calling the other night. Eastern screech owls are telling other screech owls, especially young owls, to back off from their territory. Starting in late August or September, adults re-establish their winter-feeding territories from older and more self-sufficient offspring that are seeking territories of their own for the winter.
Many young owls by now have become competent hunters and are ready to move on to their own territories. Yet, young screech owls do not migrate and move relatively short distances away from the location where they were raised. Most yearling screech owls are found only a mile or two from their birth area.
So adults need to force the kids away by calling, which effectively tells everyone this space has been taken, move along. But here is the thing, the eastern screech owl really doesn’t screech all that much. This time of year, its primary territorial calls are a horse-like whinny and a long tremulous trill.
I often hear the whinny call. It’s only about two seconds long and is used primarily to defend territories. The monotonic trill and whinny call of eastern screech owls are their most frequent vocalizations, particularly during late summer and early fall when young are dispersing and seeking their own territories.
Open your windows or take a walk outside at night. You too might hear the faint, sort of tenderly heads-up call of a screech owl.
Or perhaps you might find another soft sign a screech owl is nearby - an empty birdbath. If you filled a birdbath during the day and it’s completely empty in the morning, it may have been a screech owl taking a bath and visiting your property at night.
Otherwise, these birds are silent and secretive forest creatures. They blend in extremely well to a wooded environment. Except for their nighttime calls, eastern screech owls leave very little sign they are around
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MY TOP 5 FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT NY HARBOR
1. Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City by Leslie Day
2.Heartbeats in the Muck by John Waldman
3. The Fisheries of Raritan Bay by Clyde L. MacKenzie Jr.
4. Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate
5. The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell