Little Screech Owl and our Three-Legged Boxer

This is an Eastern Screech Owl, but it looked like the one we often encountered in San Tan Valley, Arizona.
This is an Eastern Screech Owl, but it looked like the one we often encountered in San Tan Valley, Arizona. | Source

Would a Screech Owl go after a Big Dog?

I enjoyed a few exciting encounters this summer with a screech owl. My daughter did, too. The three family dogs in my daughter's household who wait all day for their midnight walks might not describe it quite this way, if they could talk, but to me it was exciting.

My daughter's dogs' names are Lily, Tika and Hansen. I've written about Hansen, the three-legged boxer Priscilla rescued. He's a hefty, muscular dog. Yet this little screech owl who waited and screeched at our arrival every evening seemed intent on grabbing Hansen by the back of the neck and flying away.


Let's give the little screech owl a name for the sake of brevity. I shall call him Lucas. I can only assume he was male because he was so aggressive. And I think he was motherless and rather confused.

Midnight Walks in Hot Arizona Summertime

On a hot Arizona night at midnight with the temperature at 101 degrees and the humidity, oddly, at 65, the brain isn't always working at top speed, but those were the impressions I imagined of the baby owl each night as we walked a mile-and-a-half with the family dogs to the neighborhood down the way -- at the edge of civilization. It is one of those neighborhoods on the southern fringe of Metro Phoenix which was being built in 2008 when the economy was teetering. Suddenly, finances started to fall away for many big developers and neighborhoods that were only half-finished, stayed unfinished. Along this particular half-finished development is a long, big greenbelt where the dogs can run through the sprinklers under the stars while most Arizonans are sleeping.


Each evening when we arrived, we walked briskly into the housing development and as we approached one of the streets which had houses on one side of the street and big, vacant properties on the other side, this little owl, Lucas, would come screeching over our heads and seem to hover immediately over Hansen's backside. Then Lucas would fly away, screeching, to go perch on the top of the nearest street sign.

Another Eastern Screech Owl image.  Note how small screech owls are at approximately 8 or 9 inches tall and 22 inch wingspans.
Another Eastern Screech Owl image. Note how small screech owls are at approximately 8 or 9 inches tall and 22 inch wingspans. | Source

A Strange Little Owl

Hansen may have been a bit perplexed the first time it happened, but he's a brave and positive-minded Boxer. He must have decided the little screech owl wanted to play, so he put on his 'Come and Get Me' posture. Hansen sits on his haunches, very straight and then leans just slightly to the right, tilting his head, saying in effect, "Come chase me and I'll run away so you can't!" Other dogs know right away what Hansen's body language is saying. But Lucas isn't a dog. He didn't fly after Hansen immediately and joyfully. He waited until Hansen gave up hoping for a game of tag and as we walked jauntily away, little Lucas came swooping over Hansen as though ready to attack, but then he dove away and flew into the darkness. This happened on several evenings.

Western Screech Owl, average weight of adult is 5 ounces.
Western Screech Owl, average weight of adult is 5 ounces. | Source

Did the Little Owl think He Could Bring Down a Dog?

Lily barked a couple times at Lucas. Tika was on guard several times, too, as she is the leader of the pack.. Correction: Tika is the second leader of the pack -- Priscilla, my daughter, is the actual pack leader. But Lucas was undeterred by the dogs, undeterred by us humans and undeterred by our unsuccessful camera-flashing attempts.

I do have one photo of Lucas' shining eyes on the vacant lot. It's not a really impressive shot, so I will resist the urge to display it, but it does show that this feisty little owl would dare to land on a barren piece of property at munching-level of three dogs. I have several camera shots of the street sign in the dark with the elusive little owl perched on the sign. For some reason, the street name shines brightly, but the owl cannot be seen. So I've written this little hub to remember the excitement of those evenings.

Each night as we left the vicinity, we couldn't help but wonder if this little owl had lost its mother before being taught how to catch prey or how to measure what constitutes too big of a meal.

If you have any ideas or notions as to what this little owl was doing in trying to get close to Hansen, please share your thoughts. One theory of ours is that the owl was just curious about Hansen because Hansen doesn't have four legs. Could he possibly have thought this big strong dog was easy prey?

This screech owl is often sighted in Arizona.  Lives in cactuses when not having its territory encroached upon by humans.
This screech owl is often sighted in Arizona. Lives in cactuses when not having its territory encroached upon by humans. | Source

What in the World is the Owl Up To?

Source

© 2012 Pamela Kinnaird W

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Comments 30 comments

Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 2 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

I really enjoyed the video you provided. Thank you! Those little owls in the video (with the accompanying funny music) are so cute that they don't even look real. But a bug walked by in the video, so I'm believing they're real.

My daughter did see a couple of the little owls burrowing a few weeks ago when she was walking in that neighborhood again late at night, so they must be burrowing owls as you say. Thanks for visiting.


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 2 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

Those would be burrowing owls http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9fjVSqy3zw

Up and awesome hub page Owls are without a doubt intriguing animals! I've worked with Barn owls, Great Horned, Screech and Saw Whet owls. The easiest way to observe them in the wild is to play a recording of their "song" at dusk or dawn. It is amazing how brave they become (in mating season especially) to investigate the sound. I've had screech owls come from a mile away and actually land on my arm or meetup with a female 15 feet away in a tree as I watched them mate. It can be a very rewarding past time for a bird watcher because their "song" also attracts all kinds of other birds looking to chase the owl away (while scaring others away no doubt). Play a Great Horned Owl's hoot and the Screech Owls will disappear (mortal enemies).


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

Your information is really interesting. Thanks for sharing it. It was about a year ago that I wrote this hub. Since then, our daughter has gone walking in the area many times where the little owl is. She has discovered many little owls living in the area. They actually burrow into the dirt and seem to live right there in the open dirt field which had been cleared off for the construction of new houses. She says all of the owls in the dirt are very little yet seem to be adults. If you happen to know what kind they are for sure, let me know. Thanks for stopping by.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

How neat that you were able to have a close encounter with an owl! It may be that your little Lucas was actually an adult because some owls are quite small. I love to hear them in the evenings and once had a small one stop by on a fence post and let me look at him close up. It had plenty to eat/drink in the area so I think it was just curious. They are incredible creatures and so beneficial. We should encourage their presence for they protect us from the overpopulation of rodents that carry fleas and ticks which spread diseases such Lymes and create other health issues http://www.cdc.gov/rodents/diseases/direct.html

for humans and pets. They have an important relationship with other nesting birds as their mere presence can work as a protection for birds that are not raptors, though, because owls are raptors, other birds don't nest too closely!


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

It was a strange kind of wonderful but also a little worrisome because I thought maybe he was a juvenile and his mother had left him or died -- and he didn't know how to fend for himself or to get food. I hope he was an adult, totally capable of finding food and just wanting to size up the new-looking creature accompanying us.

Thanks for visiting, DDE.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

It must have been a wonderful experience, to capture this behavior, and definitely a suspicious one. Voted up!


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

At the time it did seem very symbolic and just too special to explain. But life gets in the way, busy, busy life and it's then easier and more 'normal feeling' to think of other explanations. Thank you for your comments, JustWrite7.


JustWrite7 profile image

JustWrite7 4 years ago from Dallas, TX

i've recently grown attracted to owls this year and wanted to see what you had to say about the animal that represents wisdom...

so...hmmm...maybe it's like you said and Lucas felt threatned in some way by Hansen's unique appearance...or again as you speculated, maybe it wasn't taught properly how to catch prey...or...how about this...

maybe there's a symbolic meaning in this for you!

i've found out that nature speaks to us in many different ways...

in this year alone, i've been surrounded by a swarm of butterflies (life)...giant grsshoppers keep crossing my path on my daily walks with my own pooch (curage and creativity)...i've seen quite a few hawks this year too, the most recent event happened yesterday (visionary)...and last but not least, a moth sat at my door for two days in a row (transition)...

your wise owl (or not so wise owl) encounter is worth researching...that is if you believe in that kind of thing...

...WriteOn!!


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

I wish I'd been able to get some good photos of him, but I just have a normal little camera which I barely know how to use. It was exciting, though. The dogs weren't scared -- just a little annoyed with him. Thanks for visiting.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Thanks for sharing this great story! It is so seldom anyone sees an owl up close and personal and for you to see this guy night after night, wow! Funny how he singled out Hansen! Thanks for sharing.

Voted up and interesting.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

Your story about you, your dog and the wolf is amazing. Life in harmony, as you put it, is a beautiful and apt description. (Like you, I'm in Canada, too, this season. I was born in Calgary. My grandma was director of the Women's Exhibition of the Calgary Stampede for 25 years until the early '60's. Nice to be back in Canada for awhile.)

Thanks for taking the time to read my little hub.


Rolly A Chabot profile image

Rolly A Chabot 4 years ago from Alberta Canada

HI Pamela... what a wonderful story of animals and their habits. My thought is maybe Lucas had a nest close by and felt threatened buy Hansen possibly because he is different.

Habits of wild animals are hard to gauge. I lived in the Yukon here in the Canadian north and had a guest outside the cabin that I fed on a reglar basis. He was a wild wolf I named Spartan. He seemed to be taken with curiosity at the sight of me and my American Cocker. What made things so strange Tannis (the dog) would chase down anything without fear, Moose, Bea or what ever came across her path. Yet the wolf she left alone. In the late evenings we would sit out on the deck and Spartan would sit 15 to 20 feet away and just listen to the night sounds including me speaking. It was life lived in harmony really.

Hugs from Canada


Dahlia Flower profile image

Dahlia Flower 4 years ago from Canada

Hello Pamela. Midnight adventures with three strong dogs for fun and protection -- my kind of story. I'd don't know much about owls, but he or she was a brave one.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

Hi aviannovice! I was hoping you'd drop by to read. You're so knowledgeable about birds. The time frame was June and July. I'm not sure when nesting season is.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

This is a great story, but I'm not sure what was on the owl's mind. It appears to be an adult. I have a question, though...was it during nesting season when this occurred?


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

That's really neat that you and your wife once rescued an owl. Thanks for the visit, Fiddleman.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

gnlaser2006, thank you for reading and commenting -- all the way from China.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

moonlake, thanks for the visit. I've seen mynah birds -- they're very common in the Hawaiian Islands -- taunt kitty cats even without a nest nearby. They like to dive at cats if there's two or more of them. When it happened to my cat, she didn't seem to think she was in danger. She'd just be in a posture of trying to catch one. Thanks for your vote.


Fiddleman profile image

Fiddleman 4 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

Great story Pamela. We rarely see owls but occasionally we do. Most are nocturnal feeders and my wife once stopped our car to rescue a little owl. We kept it in a box until it was able to return to the wild. My boys were very young then and enjoyed having this new friend for about 2 weeks. He was in no hurry to leave but eventually took flight to the hills here where we live, we never saw him or her again.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

Very cute. The birds here go after the dogs or cats if they have a nest. We've never had an owl go after them. We did have an owl outside our window last week in the big tree I think. Maybe because Hansen is the biggest dog. Voted up loved your story.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

kittyjj, thanks for reading about our little owl adventures.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

And I enjoyed your comment. Thanks, drbj!


kittyjj profile image

kittyjj 4 years ago from San Jose, California

What an interesting and fun hub to read! Whatever the intention is , the owl has his eyes on Hansen for sure.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

The answer is simple, Pamela. That daring little screech owl had just been hired by the A.A.S.O. (Arizona Association of Screech Owls) as the leader of the neighborhood watch and he was assessing the behavior of your boxer (a genuine watchdog) to pick up some pointers. Right? Enjoyed your clever hub, m'dear.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

Thank you, Angela. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

What a delightfully written -- and unusual -- Hub. Thanks for sharing with us. I agree that the little owl was probably protecting territory -- but feel there's something behind him picking out one Boxer dog and not the others? Thanks for a wonderful read and sharing with us. Best/Sis


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

Thank you, hawaiianodysseus! And I will now look up benisan85745.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona Author

I hadn't thought of that. This could have been an adult bird protecting its young. Thanks for your comments, xstatic. Yes, I'm hoping Aviannovice will give her opinion on this.


hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

Vote up and FBI!

This was a really cute story. My take is that the screech owl, a very intelligent bird, was either asserting its territory or demonstrating a desire for inter-species recreation. Whatever the case may have been, I'm thankful, as a reader and a friend of animals, that you captured this literary snapshot to share with the rest of us.

Have a most wonderful rest of the week! When you have time, check out a new Hubber, a fellow Arizonan,

benisan85745.


xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

From the behavior you saw, I suspect the owl was an adult and had a nest nearby that he/she was protecting. This is a wonderful story and the walks sound like a real aadventure. Avianvoice, our resident bird expert would like this one.

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