Date: 4/10/18 4:39 am
From: Robert DeCandido PhD <rdcny...>
Subject: [JERSEYBI] NJ Eastern Screech-owl (1900-1904)
A Strenuous Screech Owl (1904)

During the summer of 1903 my feeling for Screech Owls underwent a decided change, a large degree of respect being added to the fondness already felt for the species. It was all due to a family of five young ones which were discovered one day late in May, perched along a branch about thirty feet above the carriage drive. The parents were near and furnished good examples of the two extremes of color, one being decidedly gray, the other as rusty as a Thrasher. The youngsters were about evenly divided as to color; and how comical they were as they craned their necks to look down with those big yellow-rimmed eyes, or hunched up their shoulders till the heads were literally buried among the soft feathers!

All the afternoon they sat there in the sun scarcely changing their position, though the old birds had shifted; but about seven o'clock the familiar quavering call aroused them. The rusty parent appeared presently, and by short flights and many low calls both the usual tremulous note and a soft 'coo coo coo coo,' that reminded me of the Mourning Dove persuaded the little ones to leave their perches. But as it grew darker the rusty Owl began to object to my presence, flying past with loud cracking of the bill and sometimes a sharp 'yow yow' and finally struck me on the side of the head a soft enough blow save for the pair of claws that seized my scalp with a grip that made me sympathize with any mouse they might fasten upon. The bird was gone in an instant, but I had no desire to prolong the experience.

A few weeks later the same family, presumably, moved into some trees near the house, and anyone who approached that quarter after dusk was likely to hear many bill-crackings and angry, snarling notes, as the old bird always, so far as I could judge, the rusty one swooped past the intruder. At first we often replied to the calls, but this made the rusty Owl so furious that it several times darted under the roof of the piazza and past our heads, and at last was emboldened to make another personal attack, this time slightly breaking the skin of the victim. The danger to eyes was too great, and all our calling was stopped. After that the birds made no trouble beyond angry notes and snapping, and by August even these ceased. ISABELLA McC. LEMMON, Englewood, N. J.
Notes on the Food of the Chickadee and Screech Owl (1900)

Birds are sometimes accused of injuring trees, eating fruit, or otherwise harming man, when, if the matter were investigated, the facts would be found quite the opposite.

One winter day, while passing some willows, I saw a Chickadee picking vigorously at apparently the buds. Surprised that this bird should prove injurious, I examined some of the buds more closely. In the angle formed where they lay upon the stem, nearly all had a row of tiny black insects, while those at which the Chickadee had been at work were cleared of these, though themselves uninjured.

Again, an acquaintance shot two Screech Owls as the first step toward destroying a little colony of them that was "driving away the small birds" from the village lawn nearby. Upon opening the stomachs, they were found to contain only harvest-flies, fifteen in all, and everyone in the pupa form in which they leave the earth. Probably the English Sparrows from the streets had far more to do with the driving away of the birds, but the Owls, busy destroying the injurious harvest-flies, got the blame.

ISABELLA McC. LEMMON, Englewood, N. J.

How to report NJ bird sightings: see <>
or e-mail to <njbrcreport...>
List help: <jerseybi-request...>
List archives:
Join us on Facebook!