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Western screech owls lay eggs in owl box

 
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Terrabl



Joined: 24 Apr 2017
Posts: 3
Location: Sacramento, CA

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:07 am    Post subject: Western screech owls lay eggs in owl box Reply with quote

2014: Owl pair laid 2 eggs in our attic; 1 hatched and fledged; 1 never hatched; owl poop and pellets all over our attic GROSS
2015: Hubby builds owl house and attaches it to our house under the eaves near the hole where they were getting in the attic. Hole plugged. Owl pair lays 5 eggs and all 5 hatch! We get adorable photos by sticking phone in entry hole. 3 fledge and 2 probably eaten by silblings Crying or Very sad We're home the night they fledge and it was hilarious watching parents herd them into the trees. PRICELESS!
2016: hubby installs infrared camera in owl house. Owl pair lays 3 eggs. We anxiously watch as mom dutifully sits on them for 30+ days but they never hatch. Never once did we see male deliver food or hear him calling her. She calls him nightly and she leaves the box to hunt. Does the best she can with absentee father. We break open eggs and they appear unfertilized. But what do we know. Did they miss a step? Did she lay unfertilized eggs? Is this even possible?
4/21/17: We see female hanging out in owl box during the day. When she moves we see she's laid 1 egg but isn't diligent about sitting on it. Last night she left the box and didn't return during the day. Egg's been unattended for almost 24 hours. WHAT IS HAPPENING? We've read that sometimes owls delay incubation but she was sitting on it for a while yesterday. Were perplexed and wonder if anyone can help us figure out what's going on??
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bird brain



Joined: 25 Feb 2017
Posts: 7
Location: Highland Village, TX

PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2017 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My guess is that your male owl either had a fatal accident or has been predated. I lost my first female 2 years ago. She was a red morph. I still have my original male but he had to find another mate. Now they both look similar and difficult to tell apart. She must sit on the eggs 24/7 to maintain a constant temperature. If the male died and can't bring her food, then she must leave the nest to hunt for herself and risk the eggs not staying warm enough. She instinctively knows if the eggs are fertile. If the eggs aren't fertile, she will not waste time sitting on them. If she has to leave the box on a cold night to hunt for herself, then the eggs certainly won't get the warm attention they need. She will have to find another mate, and she probably will. There is still time for a second clutch attempt if she finds another male soon. She may find another mate too late, but she will be ready for next year. My first pair failed a clutch somewhere else and came back to my box for a second clutch attempt. Second clutch attempt began late May/early June. Only one egg layed, fledged one.
I also worry that your box may be getting too hot. If it's on the Western or Southern side of your house, it could get very hot in there even underneath an eve. Eggs that get too hot won't hatch either. Does the box need to be moved to a more shaded, cooler location? Mine is in a large shade tree. I have 2 screech owl boxes, one for him, one for her. Screech owl couples like to sleep and roost in separate beds, kinda like the Dick van Dyke show. I just fledged 4 chicks and now the parents are trying to keep up with them. Hope everything works out for you.
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Terrabl



Joined: 24 Apr 2017
Posts: 3
Location: Sacramento, CA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your response bird brain! We had the same thought in 2016 when the eggs never hatched and the male was nowhere to be found after she started incubation. But it seems extremely odd that it's happening again. Because we have a camera in the owl box we can see her behavior. She laid egg #1 on 4/21 or 22. She was in the box sporadically those next few days - sometimes appearing to incubate and other times sitting next to the egg but not on it. She laid egg #2 on 4/25 and left both eggs virtually alone for the next 24 hours. Now she's diligently incubating and regularly turning the eggs. Was this possibly her way of delaying incubation so they hatch together? I've read owls don't do that but this one definitely did.

She sits in the hole of the owl house about 8 pm every night and calls to her mate. 2 nights ago we heard him answer and she left immediately. She left again last night at 8pm, returned several times like she was checking her eggs, and settled in again around 11pm. So eggs were left for 3 hours and the temperature was fairly cool. This is very similar to what happened last year. We don't monitor the camera all night (it's not recording, just real time), but have never seen the male feed her in the box. I'm waiting for her to leave tonight to see if she laid a 3rd egg.

Assuming this is the same pair, they successfully hatched 5 owlets and fledged 3 two years ago in this same box, so I don't think there are temperature problems. It does get some afternoon sun so that's something we'll have to consider if this is another failed clutch.
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bird brain



Joined: 25 Feb 2017
Posts: 7
Location: Highland Village, TX

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2017 3:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was mistaking. A hen does not know if the eggs are fertile or not. A hen can detect "duds" later on during the brooding process and will sometimes reject them. Sometimes the brooding instinct doesn't occur until all eggs are layed. So it's possible everything is as it should be. It's very possible that your male owl has more than one female to attend to. If this is the case, his resources could be stretched very thin. Can you imagine 1 male trying to feed and take care of 2 or 3 females while they are incubating? It happens, especially if there aren't enough males around in the area.
If you were to install another owl box in another part of your property, you would accomplish 2 things. First, the female would have a choice of where to raise her family. Second, the male will roost in the box remaining, and you'll know where he is. This will double your viewing pleasure. I go outside and often see him in his box, and her in her box. The male never wants to roost with her unless they are copulating. When the sun goes down, they find each other and hang out together all night. When the sun comes up, they separate and roost in their separate boxes.
If your box is receiving direct sunlight, I would move it. Indirect sunlight is acceptable and preferred in my opinion.
Also. How far do your screeches have to travel to get a cool drink? I have a pond a quarter mile away. However, I have a large birdbath in my yard and my screeches visit it every night. During warm weather, my birdbath is their first stop at dusk. Often I see the male and female in the birdbath together. Sometimes, I see both adults and the chicks in the birdbath. The birdbath should be in a shaded location so the water stays cool.
Two owl boxes out of direct sunlight and a large birdbath, and you will see and know a lot more about your screech owl family.
All we can do is be as hospitable and accommodating as we possibly can be to these birds. The rest is up to them.
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Terrabl



Joined: 24 Apr 2017
Posts: 3
Location: Sacramento, CA

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2017 7:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

She laid egg #3 on 4/27. The first egg was laid a week later than last year and a month later than 2 years ago. We had a cool, wet spring so not sure if that delayed things. I'm a bit worried about the sun and my hubby has put up a sail type shade thing that should keep the sun off the box.
Our owls have never roosted in the box. She visits starting in Feb but only roosts on rainy days. We live in an urban area and they roost in a large magnolia tree in our neighborhood.
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bird brain



Joined: 25 Feb 2017
Posts: 7
Location: Highland Village, TX

PostPosted: Sun Apr 30, 2017 5:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The fact that they nested in your attic the first year demonstrates just how desperate cavity nesters are for nest sites. Attic temps can easily be 30 to 50 degrees hotter than outside. I'm glad you provided them with an alternative and plugged the attic hole. That sail/shade thing just might work.
Do other birds harass your owl while she's in the box? That sail/shade thing might give her more privacy from harassing, prying eyes. I have extended the roof on both my owl boxes for this reason. I realize you can't move the box now. If you decide to move it later, don't worry about whether or not she will find it. I moved my owl boxes 5 or 6 times before I got it right. After I move it, they find it in a day or two. Once they found it within hours. One more thing, pine needles are the best nesting material to provide. Other nesting material gets wet and soggy and invite bugs and parasites. Pine needles stay dry and don't biodegrade for months or years. Next time you see a pine tree, stop and grab some pine needles for your owl. She will appreciate it. Change her nesting material after the chicks fledge.
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