Young Screech Owls
Artist: Marsha Frontz Cooper
Limited edition, signed & numbered art print
Print Size: 24″ x 18″
The nature center where I worked as a naturalist was also a place for wounded raptors (birds of prey) to recuperate from illness or injuries, because the head naturalist had a federal permit to rehabilitate raptors. Because I could study these normally reclusive birds up close, raptors became the subjects for my artwork. I also helped band raptors and talked with falconers to learn more about these incredible birds.
In the wild, raptors mate for life and both parents share in the tasks of feeding and mentoring the young. When the chicks are young, the parents bring insects, rodents, snakes, and other small creatures to the nest, tear them into small pieces and place the pieces in the chicks’ mouths. As the young grow, the adults offer whole critters, but don’t let go, thus forcing the young to use their beaks to tear off pieces. Finally the food is dropped whole and left for the young to contend with by themselves.
At first, we fed Ollie cut-up mice, which we obtained frozen from a local research laboratory. When he got to the stage of catching his own mice, we released into his large flight pen live mice which I had raised in the basement at home. When it came time to “hack him back to the wild”, he was brought to my home which had fields and a mixed-age deciduous forest that included dead trees (with holes large enough for owls) — perfect screech owl habitat.
This drawing is a composite of the behaviors I witnessed: it depicts the “branching out” stage of a young owl’s life—a time of exploring, exercising wings, hopping and “flying” to nearby branches, and finally “taking the plunge” into real flight. The “sneaking-up” behavior was often exhibited by Ollie as he approached the dead mice left in his cage.
Marsha Frontz Cooper
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Background photo ©Byron Jorjorian