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Northern Saw-whet Owl

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  • Steve Bouricius
    Just after dark this evening we added a fifth owl species to our yard list in East Orchard Mesa. I stepped outside to take some elk steaks off the grill and
    Message 1 of 12 , Feb 9, 2011
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      Just after dark this evening we added a fifth owl species to our yard
      list in East Orchard Mesa. I stepped outside to take some elk steaks
      off the grill and discovered a Saw-whet Owl calling from some pinyon
      pines nearby. I mimicked it's whistled call and it flew into a tree
      about 15 feet away. Debbie and I were able to get a good view with
      flashlights. After a while the bird flew back to perch low in the
      pinyons, probably to hunt mice near a compost container we keep there.

      Other owls we've seen here are Great Horned, Long-eared, Western
      Screech-owl, and one Pygmy Owl. I have seen both Barn Owl and Burrowing
      Owls about a mile from the property and might get them here someday, but
      I never expected to see a Saw-whet in the yard.

      Steve Bouricius
      Palisade
    • Steve Bouricius
      Western Slope Birders, A short while ago I searched through our wildlife shelter belt in hope of finding the tiny 7 owl. With luck I spotted it perching deep
      Message 2 of 12 , Feb 10, 2011
      Western Slope Birders,

      A short while ago I searched through our wildlife shelter belt in hope
      of finding the tiny 7" owl. With luck I spotted it perching deep in a
      juniper tree about 3 meters off the ground. I was able to get a few
      quick pictures without flushing him. It appears he may have been here
      for a day or two as I collected several regurgitated pellets from the
      ground below his perch.

      I find Saw-whets in the mountains every year but I think they're rarely
      reported here in the valley. Does anyone have information on previous
      sightings here in the Grand Valley?

      Steve Bouricius
      Palisade
    • Steve Bouricius
      Western Slope birders, The Saw-whet Owl was calling again last night and is still hanging out in the yard. Yesterday I snapped a quick photo of him
      Message 3 of 12 , Feb 12, 2011
      Western Slope birders,

      The Saw-whet Owl was calling again last night and is still hanging out
      in the yard. Yesterday I snapped a quick photo of him (attached). The
      Saw-whet apparently has other owl company. We have five owl boxes in
      the yard and around the orchard. Yesterday I checked and cleaned out
      some of the boxes and found a Western Screech-owl roosting in one about
      50 feet from where the Saw-whet is roosting. If only we could get a
      view of them interacting at night!

      Today I checked the other owl boxes in the orchard and found another
      Screech-owl perched in the entrance hole. Even though he kept his eyes
      shut, he was aware I that was there and would turn his head to listen as
      I would move.

      Besides the small owls there is also a perennial pair of Great Horned
      Owls in a neighbor's spruce tree adjacent to our apple orchard.
      Sometimes they clunk around on the roof of our house in hope of picking
      off one of the rabbits.

      Steve Bouricius
      Palisade
    • Steve Bouricius
      Western Slope Birders, The Northern Saw-whet Owl continues to roost in the yard by day, and call at night, although I heard him only once briefly last night.
      Message 4 of 12 , Feb 18, 2011
      Western Slope Birders,

      The Northern Saw-whet Owl continues to roost in the yard by day, and
      call at night, although I heard him only once briefly last night. A
      concern is that the Saw-whet could be predated by the larger and more
      aggressive Western Screech-owl. On Saturday, both birds were calling
      from the same area of our wildlife shelter belt. We also have a pair of
      Great Horned Owls calling in a duet just a couple hundred feet away.

      Scott Rashid thinks this bird is probably a young male, hatched last
      year, based on certain feather features. Scott said that while it's
      common for Saw-whets to roost in a tree, if the bird finds the nest
      boxes he might begin calling from the entrance in order to find a mate.
      On Wednesday Deb and I confirmed the bird calling from a nest box hole.

      Scott is a longtime friend, fellow bander and rehabber in Estes Park.
      He recently published the book, Small Mountain Owls, an account of his
      personal experiences with banding and rehabbing the owls over two
      decades. The book is richly illustrated with Scott's own paintings.
      http://www.amazon.com/Small-Mountain-Owls-Scott-Rashid/dp/0764332821

      The Saw-whet has been roosting in dense foliage where it's been
      difficult to get a good view, and nearly impossible to get a photo.
      Today I got lucky.

      Steve Bouricius
      Palisade
    • Steve Bouricius
      Hello Western Slope Birders, An incredible development: The Saw-whet Owl is still using one of several juniper trees to roost in our yard. After showing the
      Message 5 of 12 , Mar 1 1:39 PM
      Hello Western Slope Birders,

      An incredible development:

      The Saw-whet Owl is still using one of several juniper trees to roost in
      our yard. After showing the bird to some folks this morning I decided
      to check all five of our owl boxes. I also went to clean out and
      replenish wood shavings in the orchard box where I'd found a Screech-owl
      on Feb. 12th. Moving to the last box I was stunned to find another
      Saw-whet Owl perched in the entrance. I hurried back to find the first
      owl still roosting deep in the juniper (photo #1 attached), confirming
      that we do have two Saw-whets roosting here, about 225 yards apart.
      Comparing the photo I posted on 2-18, to the ones of the bird in the box
      today (photos #2 & 3 attached here), the different markings are evident.

      This evening we'll spend some time listening and watching in an attempt
      to learn whether these birds are potential mates, or two rival males.
      Unlike most other owls, Saw-whets are apparently promiscuous breeders
      and do not mate for life. Might this increase the chance a pair would
      breed here outside their normal habitat and given the abundance of nest
      cavities?

      Maybe this would be a good time for Grand Valley folks to get out
      shortly after dark and listen for Saw-whets and other owls. It seems
      the biggest owling effort locally is done for the Christmas count, but
      this is a more productive time to find owls. Perhaps Saw-whets aren't
      so unusual in the Grand Valley as has been thought.

      Cheers!

      Steve Bouricius
      Palisade
    • Steve Bouricius
      Hello Western Slope Birders, It s official, she s expecting! The female Saw-whet is on at least three eggs, possibly more. Next to the bird were two deer
      Message 6 of 12 , Mar 13 3:49 PM
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      Hello Western Slope Birders,

      It's official, she's expecting! The female Saw-whet is on at least
      three eggs, possibly more. Next to the bird were two deer mice, one of
      them half eaten. So far as I know, this would be a first Grand Valley
      nesting record for the species. Our elevation is about 4750 ft.

      The male was calling again last night, maybe trying to find a second
      mate because of the additional nest boxes available? He's still
      roosting in juniper trees, 225 yds from the box were the female is.
      There are two other owl boxes within about 50 feet of the male's
      roost. Another box nearby is being used by kestrels.

      I set up a scouting camera to hopefully capture any activity at the
      box. It uses an infrared flash triggered by a motion detector.
      Yesterday just after midnight, the camera caught an owl at the box
      entrance with a mouse. This morning the camera showed an owl at the
      entrance when it left the box at 3:38 a.m., then at 3:41 a.m., an owl
      entered the box. At sun up, a starling looked in the entrance, then
      left. This evening I'll set the camera to capture video, maybe that
      will reveal something more.

      Steve Bouricius
      Palisade
    • Steve Bouricius
      Hello Western Slope Birders, Just an update on the owl happenings here. On Wednesday (5-4) as we were walking through the wildlife shelter belt we got a close
      Message 7 of 12 , May 8, 2011
      Hello Western Slope Birders,

      Just an update on the owl happenings here. On Wednesday (5-4) as we
      were walking through the wildlife shelter belt we got a close up view of
      a roosting Long-eared Owl, the first we've seen here in several years.
      The bird stayed in the yard until dark but we haven't seen it since.

      The Saw-whet Owls nesting in our apricot tree are apparently doing well
      with five healthy chicks close to fledging. There hasn't been much to
      see lately because the adults have mostly been roosting off the
      property. The female is no longer staying in the nest box, leaving more
      room for the chicks. We found the male owl roosting by the house only
      three times in the past 3 weeks.

      This afternoon, with advice and support from Scott Rashid, we banded the
      five chicks, took measurements and weighed them. Their weights ranged
      from 85-103 grams (3 to 3.6 ounces), about the same as adults. The
      oldest chick was exercising his wings so he could leave the nest within
      a week. The youngest will likely be 8 or 10 days behind. Given this
      very unusual nest location, wouldn't it be interesting if we could
      follow their movements over the next few months?

      If there's a safe opportunity to view the young after fledging, I'll
      post the information to the list. The photos are of the male hunting at
      dusk, and banding the chicks in the orchard.

      Steve Bouricius
      Palisade
    • Steve Bouricius
      On Sunday, I acted on a tip from Nic Korte about a report of an injured Saw-whet Owl that was found by some boys near the Colorado River. I was surprised to
      Message 8 of 12 , May 21, 2014
      On Sunday, I acted on a tip from Nic Korte about a report of an injured Saw-whet Owl that was found by some boys near the Colorado River. I was surprised to find a juvenile Saw-whet, recently fledged. I don't think this bird could have been far from the nest. The area is in the Redlands off Peony Drive, next to the river.

      The bird was unable to fly due to what appeared to be a broken carpel bone of the right wing. I took the bird to the veterinarian who specializes in wildlife for the CPW. The vet was going to x-ray it to see if it can be pinned and repaired.

      The following day I returned to search the area for a nest cavity and other Saw-whets, without success. But, there's a lot of dense forest habitat there with large cottonwoods and elms, and an understory of Russian Olive and Three-leaf Sumac. Our experience with the Saw-whets that nested in our orchard suggests that the adult and juvenile birds remain and hunt together for two months after fledging. We may be able to locate the birds by listening after dusk. This could add to the two known NSWO nests in 2011, including the cottonwood nest found by Coen and Brenda by the river in Clifton. Again, it could be that Saw-whets nest more regularly in the Grand Valley than we previously thought.

      Steve Bouricius
      CPW volunteer
      Wildlife Rescue Team
    • Brenda Wright
      Greetings, Had a Northern Saw-whet Owl in the yard at sundown singing away for several minutes. The owl was difficult to see as the trees are still fully
      Message 9 of 12 , Oct 14, 2014
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        Greetings,
        Had a Northern Saw-whet Owl in the yard at sundown singing away for several minutes. The owl was difficult to see as the trees are still fully leaved out. Yard species 178 (113 species this year in yard and 202 for Montrose County this year).

        Could it be the Killdeers are the canary in the coal mine for shorebirds. Brenda and I have birded nearly everyday since 1 August in most counties in Colorado. We have found few shorebirds and very few Killdeers. It was but a few years ago we would see a dozen or so Killdeers at most water holes.
        Coen and Brenda
      • Steve Bouricius
        Hello Western Slope birders, This evening about 7:30 I stepped outside to put some elk steak on the grill when I heard a Saw-whet Owl calling from the yard.
        Message 10 of 12 , Feb 1
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          Hello Western Slope birders,

          This evening about 7:30 I stepped outside to put some elk steak on the
          grill when I heard a Saw-whet Owl calling from the yard. Under a full
          moon it seemed perfect. The call is a sound I've listened for since
          first finding a Saw-whet in our yard four years ago. Deja vu owl. It's
          the elk steaks, I'm sure. The 2011 Saw-whet found a mate and reared
          five young from a nest box in an apricot tree at the edge of the apple
          orchard. The Saw-whet this evening has been calling from near an owl
          box in the wildlife shelter belt that extends from the house to the
          orchard. Might we be so lucky to have another Saw-whet nesting in the
          yard? Elk steaks and owl boxes.

          On one evening two weeks ago we found three other owls in the wildlife
          shelter belt; a Western Screech-owl in a nest box entrance, a Long-eared
          Owl in a western red cedar only ten yards away, and a Great Horned Owl
          calling from a nearby cottonwood. We've seen WESO's in three different
          boxes in the yard during January. I think they move around a lot now.
          Other yard raptors include daily visits by Sharp-shinned, Cooper's, and
          Red-tailed Hawks, and a female Northern Harrier. American Kestrels
          continue to defend the Barn Owl box from flickers, et. al., including a
          flock of curious Mountain Bluebirds. Each and every bluebird in the
          flock seemed determined to poke it's head into the Barn Owl box. We may
          need to put up another Barn Owl box.

          With the warming weather It could be a very good time to take evening
          walks and listen for Saw-whet Owls in the Grand Valley.

          Steve Bouricius
          Central Orchard Mesa
          Palisade
        • Steve Bouricius
          On Monday and again today I was able to locate the daytime roosts of the Saw-whet Owl in the wind row, well hidden next to the trunk in eastern red cedars.
          Message 11 of 12 , Feb 3
          On Monday and again today I was able to locate the daytime roosts of the
          Saw-whet Owl in the wind row, well hidden next to the trunk in eastern
          red cedars. The bird has been calling each evening from points near
          each of four owl boxes there. He has other choices with nine owl boxes
          around the property, and a few cottonwood cavities. A Great Horned Owl
          is also calling nearby. We'll give the Saw-whet some space so maybe he
          can find a mate. Here's a photo taken at 8:25 this evening.

          We hope to have as much luck in our next owl quest for an Unspotted
          Saw-Whet Owl.

          Steve Bouricius
          Palisade
        • Steve Bouricius
          Hello Western Slope birders, Here s another March record of Saw-whet Owl for the Grand Valley. This adult bird was caught Thursday night by a domestic cat in
          Message 12 of 12 , Mar 21 8:34 AM
          Hello Western Slope birders,

          Here's another March record of Saw-whet Owl for the Grand Valley. This
          adult bird was caught Thursday night by a domestic cat in the Redlands
          area about a quarter mile from the Colorado River. I'd guess the owl
          was captured when it went to ground for a mouse. The homeowner
          safeguarded the owl in a bathroom and called Colorado Parks and Wildlife
          the next day. The bird was kept under observation and released shortly
          after dark.

          Steve Bouricius
          Palisade
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