"About Night Life"
Northern Saw-whet Owl
On one particular Christmas Bird Count, we found two dead Northern Saw-whet Owls in the Kanab Creek area. They looked lifelike, and yet were wet, a muddy, and lifeless. Seeing and holding these small Owls brought to mind the facts of nature. A few days of fearsome weather, unable to hunt, can cost lives. A violent storm had just passed though this area.
Humans are adapted for daytime living and lots of light, whereas Owls are masters of the night and rely primarily on hearing to hunt, navigate, and survive in the dark. By mastering the dark, Owls do not intrude on the hunting grounds of the Hawks, and Eagles. Their prey is the prey of the night.
The Northern Saw-whet Owls pass through our area and are seldom seen, for they are strictly nocturnal, and activity begins at late dusk. During the daylight hours, the Saw-whet Owl depends on its plumage or tree foliage for camouflage. When threatened, it will elongate its body in order to appear like a tree branch or bump, often bringing one wing around to the front of the body. You may hear Owls, but you are extremely lucky if you see one.
The Saw-whet Owl uses the "sit and wait" tactic to drop down onto prey on the ground from low hunting perches. When prey is plentiful, it will kill several mice in rapid succession, without consuming any of them. This excess food is then cached in a safe place for later use. In winter, when caching food, the cache is thawed out by "brooding" the frozen carcass. The Saw-whet Owl makes a raspy call like the sound of a saw being sharpened, hence the name "Saw-whet".
This week's drawing, by Judy Warren, may be your only opportunity to see a Northern Saw-whet Owl. Thank you Judy for this great picture painted in watercolor.
Another Red Cliffs Audubon Field Trip will be Saturday, June 14th, to Oakgrove. Meet at the BLM at 7:00 a.m. For more information about birds or the field trip call Marilyn Davis at 673-0996.