Sunday, November 20, 2011


This Western Screech Owl (Otus kennecottii) was one of dozens of raptors on display at the Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center open house this weekend. Anyone venturing into Phoenix from the north on I-17 zooms past Adobe Mountain, which is west of the freeway just south of Happy Valley Road. Critters in the care of dozens of dedicated volunteers range from bats to bobcats, rattlesnakes and woodrats, tortoises and turkey vultures.

In this photo, the owl is posed in a cavity carved into a section of ponderosa pine, but down in these parts, they are more likely to be found in saguaros. Like many other owl species, the screech adapts well to suburban habitats, where irrigated lawns, golf course, gardens and ball fields provide excellent forage for their favorite prey: mice, rabbits, small birds and insects. Since they are primarily nocturnal, they are rarely noticed by humans. This was the first screech owl I have seen in my lifetime. Sadly, the second one I saw was later that day on my way home, when I found one dead in the middle of the road, where it had been hit by a car as it dove for prey. More fortunate animals may recover from non-lethal injuries if brought to Adobe Mountain. Some become part of the education team, or if lucky, are released back into the wild.

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