My San Antonio owls

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.

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