The owls and the interloper

Our owls came back to nest this year, and my husband and I have enjoyed seeing the increased activity around the owl box in the past few weeks. The parent owls showed themselves more during the daytime this year and even did a few too many fly-bys of my head when I was outside in the evenings.


Mamma or daddy owl (a western screech-owl) on high alert. Its markings are beautiful.

Others nearby haven’t been as thrilled with the owls nesting in our bird box. Somewhere close to the box is a hummingbird nest, along with the nest of another sort of bird—perhaps a black phoebe (I’m not sure about the identification of that one). There are other tiny birds in the area, too, and I wonder if they have a nest somewhere in those trees, too.

As the mother owl left the nest more frequently, the other birds flitted around the trees by the box, pitching a frenzied “Go away!” fit.

Nesting2016_ 2FT

How many nests does this tree hold?

This past weekend, the fledgling owl left the nest and began learning to fly. This is a dangerous but important time in the fledgling’s life, and every cat in the neighborhood snooped around our backyard that day.

Toward twilight, a cat slunk through the yard, and our dog, banished from the backyard for the day while the owl learned to fly, got to go on the chase of a lifetime. She definitely has her form and sprint speed back and came inside exceptionally pleased with herself for a job well done. (Don’t worry, cat lovers. The cat jumped the fence and got away.)

As you might guess, learning to fly is exhausting work, and, even before dark, the fledgling could barely keep its eyes open. I imagine all the mamma birds in the area—owl, hummingbird, phoebe and all the others—were probably as wiped out as this owl.


It’s exhausting to be this cute.

We were thrilled to see the fledgling flying so well by the end of the day. Once a fledgling leaves the nest, it doesn’t go back, but the parents do keep a watchful eye on it as it learns the joys and perils of being a wild bird. Saturday may have been our last glimpse of this fledgling.

By Monday, an interloper had moved in to make a nest in the box.


I’m less excited about having this bird nesting in our box.

The black bird tossed all the owl’s nesting remnants out the box and was busy plucking leaves from the tree to begin its own nest. It’s not as fastidious as the owls were, and the box is a mess just two days after the interloper moved in.


I hope it doesn’t stay around long, and I hope the hummingbirds are able to defend themselves from this new (unwelcome) neighbor. I’m also already looking forward to the owls returning next year. If the interloper beats them to the box, I hope the owls win. They’re much better tenants.

Do you have owls or other birds nesting in your yard? I’d love to hear your nesting stories and invite you to share them in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “The owls and the interloper

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    • Thanks for your kind words. I always love hearing owls, but I’ll admit — it’s very exciting to get to see them, especially fledglings. I’m grateful to the previous homeowners who put up a bird box in just the right place.

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