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Archive for the 'Owls' Category

Saw-whet owl with babies in a nest box

Saw-whet owl in nest box, surrounded by dead mice caught by her mate for feeding her babies. Babies are keeping warm under the adult owl’s warm feathers. Photo by John Ratcliffe, Brentwood, CA
1saw-whet2 john ratcliffe brentwood

I was invited on a bird-banding for wood ducks and saw-whet owls earlier this year.  I got a kick out of the number of mice/rodents that were delivered to this owl’s nest.
John Ratcliffe, Brentwood, California

It was nice of somebody to put up the wooden nest box this little owl is using. Saw-whets, barn owls and other owls like to use man-made nest boxes. It’s not always easy to find hollows or old woodpecker holes in trees.

Saw-whet owls may only be 8-inches tall, but they are one of the most aggressive little hunters in the bird world. From the way this owl (probably the female) is puffed up and her body is spread out, I suspect she’s keeping 4-6 babies warm under her feathers. All those fresh, dead mice lying around her were brought by her mate so she can feed her hungry chicks.

There used to be some saw-whet owl nests in the trees around San Pablo Reservoir near Orinda. Maybe there still are. /Gary

Saw-whet owl in nest box, surrounded by dead mice caught by her mate for feeding her babies. Babies are keeping warm under the adult owl’s warm feathers. Photo by John Ratcliffe, Brentwood, CA
1saw-whet john ratcliffe brentwood

Posted on Monday, October 24th, 2011
Under: Owls, Saw-whet owl | 1 Comment »

Great horned owl nest in tree, with chick and adult owl

Great horned owl nest, chick and adult. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA.
1ghowlnest dave harper oakley

I get a lot of requests from readers, asking what great horned owl nests look like. These photos by Dave Harper of Oakley, California, are a perfect example. It’s usually a large stick nest, high in a tree. Above you can see an approximately 3-month-old owl chick on the left sitting on the nest, staring at the camera. One of the adult great horned owls is perched on a branch on the right. Below is the same photo showing the owls and nest from a further distance away so you can get a better idea of how high up in the tree it is.

Hope this answers your questions. Thanks for the great photo, Dave! /Gary

Great horned owl nest and owls. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1ghowlnest dave harper oakley

Posted on Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
Under: great horned owl, nesting, Owls | 4 Comments »

Wild birds help us connect with nature

Jenny of Native Bird Connections with a snowy owl (Wild Birds Unlimited)
1snowyowl jenny mike williams

Native Bird Connections is a nonprofit organization that uses a collection of live, tame, nonreleasable eagles, hawks and owls to educate people of all ages about the wonders of nature. Last year they presented 584 programs that touched the lives of 17,792 people — including school children, scouts, senior living programs, after school enrichment programs, state and national park programs.

As Native Bird Connections supports our young people in their search for knowledge of the natural world around us, this organization also needs our financial support to help them survive these tough times.
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Posted on Friday, May 6th, 2011
Under: Bald Eagles, Birds, Golden eagles, Hawks, Owls, wild birds | No Comments »

Screech owls: Local backyard is home for two special friends

Screech owl adult (l.) and chick (r.) perched outside attic nest. Photo by Lori Katzburg, Walnut Creek, CA.
1screech lori katzburg wc

I feel so grateful for having a wonderful treat to marvel at each day:  A mama and papa screech owl have been living in my attic/house vent for over 8 years now.  Each spring they bring new baby “owlies” to my backyard.

The mama and papa are comfortable with my quiet presence. Their wings have brushed my shoulders on several occasions. The feeling is absolutely awesome.
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Posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
Under: Owls, Screech owls | 3 Comments »

Barn owls (not partridges) in a palm (not a pear) tree

Barn owls in palm tree. Photo by Linda Cruz, Clayton, CA
1barn owl linda cruz

I thought you might like this photo for your wildlife shots.  I continue to take photos each day of the owls in our unsightly palm tree.  I love watching the owls take flight just as the sun goes down and the different sounds they make communicating.  It is so awesome.  And I cannot believe how many pellets they drop each day.  It is amazing to see the tiny bones and huge teeth in the pellets.
Linda Cruz, Clayton, California

What beautiful barn owls!
Your “unsightly” palm trees are known by owls and other birds (squirrels and sometimes raccoons) as “Wildlife Condos” because of all the nooks and crannies that make excellent nesting spots. Show me a palm tree and I’ll show you a lot of happy, nesting wild birds!

The “pellets” you’re talking about are the undigested remains of fur and bone that the owls regurgitate after each rodent meal. Owls swallow rats, mice and gophers whole. What they can’t digest (bone, fur) gets coughed up later as a furry pellet that lands on the ground. Scientists often collect and dissect these pellets to expose rodent skeletons so they can study what the owls have been eating. Clever people, these scientists! By the way, the fact that these two owls are coughing up so many pellets every day indicates they may be feeding baby owls up there. /Gary

Posted on Friday, April 1st, 2011
Under: Barn Owl, Owls | No Comments »

Happy New Year from Gary and the gang!

Burrowing owls. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
burrowing owls dave harper oakley

Happy New Year from me and the gang! /Gary

Posted on Thursday, December 30th, 2010
Under: Burrowing owls, Owls | No Comments »

Local wildlife: Great photos by Dave Harper of Oakley

Baby barn owls. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
barn owls dave harper oakley

Just got this letter and photographs from Dave Harper of Oakley, Calif. Dave is one of our many talented local photographers who periodically e-mails me wonderful photos of local wildlife he has taken. Here are some more of Dave’s goodies. Enjoy yourself. /Gary

I’m sending recent photos of wildlife I have seen. Thanks to my friend Thom for allowing a special photo opportunity to capture baby barn owls in one of his large hay barns.
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Posted on Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
Under: Barn Owl, Ospreys, Owls, Wildlife, Wolves | No Comments »

Screech owls are spunky, tough little guys. Isn’t this cute?

Screech owl nest box (Craig Jensen/ Walnut Creek, CA)
screech, craig jensen, wc

During the 5 years I have had my owl boxes up, they have continuously been occupied by screech owls except for a 3 month span in one of the boxes when a tree squirrel took residence. The squirrel was eventually chased out by an owl.

These creatures are a constant source of delight and have helped to reduce my gopher population. Enjoy!
Craig Jensen, Walnut Creek, CA

The 6-inch tall screech owls are one of my favorite birds of prey … tiny but very spunky! /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
Under: Owls, Screech owls | 1 Comment »

Got owls? Photos & facts of our local owls to help you ID them

Barn Owl by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, Calif.

There are 8 species of local owls that you might encounter in your San Francisco Bay Area backyard. Four of these owl species are pictured here. There are links below for you to click on and take a look at the other four owl species on the Internet. Have fun! /Gary

Barn Owl: Probably our most common local owl in the S.F. Bay Area. These owls have white breasts and underwings and if you look up you may think you are looking at a white or snowy owl. Nope. Just a barn owl. Sometimes at night you will hear a loud hissing-screeching sound in the sky above you. Classic barn owl. They nest in old buildings, tree hollows and in human-made nest boxes. They eat LOTS of gophers, rats and mice. VERY beneficial — especially if they live in your backyard. More at
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Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
Under: Owls | 8 Comments »