No swans, geese, doves or partridges for me, I want screech-owls for Christmas!
I won't be looking in pear trees either--but in cottonwoods!
Unbeknowst to many Grand Valley residents, we have a uniquely high population of Western Screech-owls. Here’s a photo of one from Connected Lakes State Park.
(photo by Jackson Trappett)
Most people, when they think of owls, think of Great Horned Owls. We have those too, although not so many as the little screech-owls.
Little? A Great-Horned Owl is about 22 inches in length—nearly three times the 8 inches or so of a Western Screech-owl. One of our local owl enthusiasts says a screech-owl is the size of a soup can.
Great-horned owls calls give the noisy and loud “whoo-whoo-huh-whoos,” often heard throughout the fall and winter. Western Screech owls give a soft hu-hu-hu-hu-hu. If you want to hear the difference yourself, there are plenty of examples on YouTube.
Why do I want 65 screech-owls? Because that would be a national record. We tied the old record last year when we counted 64 during the annual Audubon Society Christmas Count. (This year’s count will occur on December 15.) Our population of Western Screech-owls is unusual. We always find far more than anyone else in the State of Colorado. Delta, Montrose, and Glenwood Springs, which have a lot of similar habitat, usually have only two or three. In fact, here in the Grand Valley, we find more screech-owls than in the rest of our state combined, and in the entire states of New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah—and almost more than in Arizona. Only in California are there more Western Screech-owls.
Western Screech-owls prefer cottonwood trees because their old limbs provide a lot of nice cavities. The owls like to sun themselves from east or south facing holes in the fall/winter, but they prefer nesting in north and south-facing holes so they will be cool when the weather warms.
Grand Valley Audubon Society has a project to keep the valley comfortable for screech-owls. It was noticed some years ago that more and more old cottonwoods were being cut down. When the old cottonwoods went down, so did the cavities screech-owls require. So GVAS began to put up nest boxes at golf courses, cemeteries, parks, schools, and farms between GJ and Fruita. Some owls even like settled neighborhoods with big trees in the city. More than 200 boxes are around the valley.
If you would like to help with counting or monitoring or if you want a box to see if you can attract a Western Screech-owl, send a note to email@example.com. Similarly, send any sightings to the same address. We’ll see if we can’t remain #1 with Western Screech-owls!
SUNDAY DECEMBER 15 IS THE ANNUAL GRAND VALLEY CHRISTMAS COUNT. PLEASE SEE OUR WEBSITE IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HELP. BEGINNING BIRDERS ARE ENCOURAGED! ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS BE ABLE TO COUNT AND WRITE DOWN NUMBERS.
This post provided by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society. Send questions/comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, please see audubongv.webs.com, send us an email, and “like” us on Facebook!]