Hey who wants to talk about Eastern screech owl color morphs??
These tiny murder machines are orphaned babies in rehabilitation at the center where I volunteer (WildCare Inc, Bloomington IN). They have another foster sibling too, grey morph like the cutie in the middle except smaller and darker. Anyway, this photo was taken a month or so ago and the owlets have grown up a lot since then, and they’re now in an outdoor aviary learning to fly and hunt!
We get a lot of Eastern screech owls here (southern Indiana). Most are the grey morph, although not as overwhelmingly as in the northern part of their range (eastern Canada). This year’s batch of orphans is fascinating to look at because they all look so different that I don’t need to look at their leg bands to tell them apart!
Starting from the back: little red morph. Even as a tiny baby, this bird has always had reddish tones in its feathers. It’s smaller than the others, which could indicate that it’s male, but red morph owls tend to be smaller in general, so who (whooooo) knows.
In the middle we have “great grey.” Haha, not actually a great grey owl, but she’s a grey morph and she weighs more than her adult foster parent! Without a DNA test I can’t say for sure that she’s female, but it’s a fairly safe guess. This bird barely survived, actually. The tree her nest was in fell during a storm, and she and a sibling (who didn’t survive) were found on the ground, soaking wet and barely responsive. When she came in, I picked her up and she didn’t even move or open her eyes, and I only knew she was alive because I felt her breathing. She was probably about 10-12 days old. We got her in a cozy heated nest box and by the end of the week she was vocalizing and eating pretty well. Until she stopped. Volunteers noted on her chart that she wasn’t taking food, and when I fed her I could get her to eat the tiniest pieces - which she did very enthusiastically - but anything bigger than a mouse heart she’d just hold in her beak and eventually drop. I started to worry because I know that by that age they should be able to swallow surprisingly big pieces of food, and I knew she wasn’t eating overnight because her weight started to drop. She obviously wanted to eat, judging by how ravenously she ate the tiny pieces. I suspected that there might be something wrong with her mouth or throat, and bingo… we examined her and found an ulcer in her throat. Poor baby. Most likely her immune system was still compromised from her rough start and hypothermia. We hydrated her and started a course of medicine, and within a week she was eating again! By then she had a couple foster siblings, which I think helped, and we had our Eastern screech owl foster parent living with the babies too. At the babies’ most recent weight check, “great grey” was the biggest of the bunch and eating very well!
In the front we have a really gorgeous bird, an intermediate brown morph. Eastern screech owls aren’t only red or grey! This little one actually has some really fascinating coloring on the wings, dark brown with some rusty-red coverts. I’ve seen light brown morphs before but this owlet is darker and mottled and really gorgeous.
Their faces all look different too! It’s so cool how different birds of the same species, all approximately the same age, can look so incredibly unique. 😍
All four babies are doing great and on track to be released back into the wild once they learn how to hunt prey!
The eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) is a small owl that is relatively common in Eastern North America, from Mexico to Canada. This species is native to most wooded environments of its distribution and, more so than any other owl in its range, has adapted well to manmade development, although it frequently avoids detection due to its strictly nocturnal habits.
A winter morning much like any other; the rain and thunder outside providing a calming ambience. In the building today, in the scarce hours before opening, there are murmurs of a night guard not reporting for his shifts recently. His home had been called - they didn’t know where he was, either. Security footage from the night he went missing, was itself nowhere to be found. Whether that was due to protocol or sabotage was anyone’s guess.
But, there was further muttering about a sudden appearance, as well. There was a new animatronic, in the backstage room. The managers, senior staff, and maintenance crew all seemed baffled. Not only had nobody requested this, it arrived despite not being budgeted, and had an unfamiliar construction.
If the owner chose to investigate the situation themselves, they would find - with a flick of the light switch - themselves in the room with an owl animatronic. Specifically, a rufous-morph eastern screech owl, with muted red, brown, and white feathers. He has a small grey beak, and limbs each ending in three large talons.
He’s over in the far corner, curled up with his eyes shut, as if asleep. He’s rather compact, not being much larger than an adult. If they had a keen eye for detail, they might notice that he seems to be breathing. In addition, the parts of the endoskeleton visible in the gaps between the suit pieces, appear to be made of black cloth instead of grey metal.
[Hi! I have an extremely dumb muse, in a crazy multi-timeline AU that only I understand, and am slow to respond! Let’s see how long you can put up with me!]