Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Visit From a Screech-Owl

Sunday night someone brought us an Eastern Screech-Owl (a red one) that they found in their cow parlor literally up to its neck in runny manure. (I guess you could say it was in deep doo-doo.) After a couple of baths, a blow dryer, and some time to preen he looked good as new.

But his defensive strategy worked perfectly on us. Each time we looked at him or picked him up he froze, mostly closed his eyes, and wouldn't even move. It really made we wonder if he was OK. But he sang his trilling song during the night, so that seemed to be a good sign.

The next morning, he of course froze when I checked on him. Now that he was dry, preened, and looked like an owl I wanted to check him more closely for any possible injuries. I carefully picked the little "stick" up, but the second I got him above the edge of the box, he bolted out of my hand. Guess his "stick owl" strategy worked quite well. But where did he go? Around the corner, up the stairs, and straight into Alice's room! Probably the worst place for a screech-owl in our entire house, since Great Horned Owls eat screech-owls, and Alice was perched on the top of the door to her room.

While Alice's eyes were bugging out at this unexpected visitor, I zipped upstairs and quickly snatched up the screech before Alice could even think about eating it (she's a slow thinker.) But when I had the little owl safely in hand and was heading back downstairs, my husband reported that Alice was licking her chops! She does this "licking her chops"/soft bill smacking thing only during and after eating, and when she's thinking about eating...like when I bring her tray of dead gopher in front of her. Evidently she recognized the screech as food.

Whether there is a connection or not, Alice got adventurous last night. Normally she just stays in her room or in the upstairs hallway at night, but last night she went exploring. I found her in the living room when I got up this morning, then she went upstairs into our bedroom (pushing the door open herself), and now she's here in the office. Maybe she just felt like exploring...but then again maybe she's looking for that little screech-owl. It's not common for her to run all over the place like this.

On a side note, the screech got a "clean" bill of health from the rehabilitator and was released back where it was found last night.