Last night I finally got a look at the Tropical screech-owl (Megascops choliba) that is a fairly regular noise-maker at night around here. And now I’m confused again. Let me explain. The only owl I had previously seen here in San Antonio had been the Bare-shanked screech-owl (Megascops clarkii), a highland species, said to prefer thick forests, which we don’t really have close by here. I first saw a fledgling by day in the lower branches of a ciprés. Here’s the blurry photo, the best I could manage.
A few weeks later, a neighbour found a dead owl of what looked like the same species, in perfect condition, on the Turrialba- Pacayas road just above El Carmen, which is quite close to here. Its bright brown face and general description matched the descriptions in the guides. I measured the bird at 11″ and kept it in my freezer until my wife finally made me throw it out. I didn’t photograph the dead owl, unfortunately. At the time, I didn’t have my connection with the CATIE down in Turrialba, where they would certainly have confirmed the species.
A little while later, I discovered a day roost of the same owl species in a tree heavily laden with epiphytes quite close to the house. Since then, I can regularly visit the tree in the daytime and often find the bird roosting in exactly the same location. Here’s the best photo I have managed so far.
Once, there were actually two of them. I am very familiar with what I assume is the call of this bird, because it is heard very regularly at the house. Sometimes you can hear both the Bare-shanked and the Tropical screech-owl at the same time. I have checked the calls on various internet sites.
Why the confusion then? Because the Tropical screech-owl sitting in my güititi tree last night, calling loudly, was just a tiny fellow, while the bird guides give a measurement of 9″. That’s almost as big as the yigüirro (Clay-coloured robin), the national bird of Costa Rica. Can I really make such a mistake with regard to size? I looked at the bird only briefly, because I ran inside for the camera. Naturally it was gone when I returned. All I remember is a cute little grey bird with blinking yellow eyes. I hope I get a second chance, and I won’t make the error of going out without the camera.