The Search for the Screech - hoot hoot!
After several years of surveying and coming up short, we are excited to announce that a NEW Western Screech Owl (WESO) territory has been located, in Metchosin on February 18 2021!
Below is a link to our audio clip we posted on Instagram, and if you turn it waaayyy up and you might hear the call of the Metchosinite WESO🦉 recorded by two new HAT Habitat Stewards on their back deck. This is an exciting discovery since we knew these little owls used to have territories in this area, but we hadn't heard them calling during nesting season in over a decade. With only five known territories left in the region (that could be as few as 10 individuals left in the CRD) each new territory is precious, and much be protected.
Hearing the owl is just the beginning to ensure it is safe. Installing recording units, assessing habitat, and perhaps installing nest boxes are all parts of being good stewards of these rare owl. Especially important is identifying good nest cavity habitat in standing dead trees. Holes created by woodpeckers about 3 inches wide is perfect for the owls.
We are now entering Western Screech Owl breeding nesting season. The pairs are trying their best to locate each other now, and then they must find a suitable nest cavity. There's a lot of work to do, so if you can support the owl project we would greatly appreciate it! Visit hat.bc.ca/donate
These small owls are generally found in open forested areas on the Westcoast, but can be found in various other habitats such as suburban or coastal areas. Western Screech Owls are carnivorous, preying largely on small mammals and birds. However, they have also been known to eat fish, amphibians, and invertebrates. It's not uncommon for a Western Screech Owl to catch flying insects out of midair! Western Screech Owls nest in tree cavities excavated by woodpeckers, or cavities in the sides of cliffs or banks. They do not build nests, and prefer cavities just big enough for their own body to avoid predators entering their homes.
Western Screech Owl populations have been declining, so it is extremely promising to have found a couple more residents in Victoria. Only 6% of the Western Screech Owl population is in Canada (Partners in Flight, 2012). They are in danger of becoming threatened, and predators such as the Barred Owl (Strix Varia) are making it even more difficult for the species to thrive. Luckily, HAT is always on the lookout for more owls and habitat we can protect for them!
You can help:
- Brush up on your owl calls with All About Birds or the Merlin Bird App
- Take quiet walks through the woods at dawn or dusk and listen for owls calling
- If you think you hear a Western Screech Owl, let us know!
- Donate to the Stewardship Program - hat.bc.ca/donate
- Keep cats indoors (they could hunt fledgling owls, other birds) and don't allow your dog to chase wildlife
If you are interested in learning more about Western Screech Owls, visit: