This was a dramatic evening, as we had a visit from Barred Owls in the yard, right around sunset. The first sign of troubled was the raucous calls of the Blue Jays. I assumed they had found Mr. Owl in a tree and were giving him some grief. Mrs. Owl looked out at the commotion in the setting sun. Her ear tufts are up, and she looks very alert (photo 1) (her pupils are small because she's looking straight into the sun.)
But the reason for the disturbance became clear as two Barred Owls (photos 2 & 3) flew over the house and landed in a tree at the bottom of the yard. That put them about 75 feet from the owl house. Screech Owls are part of a balanced meal for Barred Owls, so this was of some concern. Of course Barred Owls need to eat, too, but perhaps they could satisfy themselves with some mice and Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays followed them to the tree, harrassing and dive bombing them. I only just missed capturing a direct hit to an owl's head with my camera. It sounds dangerous, but with much smaller size and greater maneuverability, the Jays really don't have much to fear with this practice. What they do have to fear is having their nests raided at night when the owls have all the advantages of darkness and quiet wings. This is why small birds mob raptors, and the Jay and Crow family are among the fiercest. So, unknowingly, the Screech Owls had some fierce allies this evening.
Eventually, the Barred Owls were driven back to a tree near the front of the house, where a third Barred Owl joined them. After some more harrassment by the Jays, they flew further down the street, over my neighbor's property.
We have known that we have Barred Owl neighbors as we hear them with some frequency, but we haven't had them in our yard during Screech Owl nesting season until tonight. While the danger still exists, the owlets have at least passed the stage where they will be able to survive the death of either parent. Mrs. Owl seems like she is out and hunting most of tonight. Earlier, death of Mr. Owl would have meant Mrs. Owl would have had to abandon incubation to start hunting for herself. And death of Mrs. Owl earlier would have left Mr. Owl unable to meet either the incubation or the tearing up of larger prey items. Male owls just won't do anything other than give prey items to hungry mouths. If the items are too big, or the owlets are too small to reach up and take the items, that's not his problem. It's very odd, but these males are just not much for domestic duties, though they are amazing hunters. They have to hunt first for 2 during incubation for 1 month, then for up to 7 (male, female, and up to 5 owlets) for the first 10 or more days after hatch. Only when the owlets reach 10 days, does he get a partner helping in bringing in the meals.