The purpose of this PixController project is to study the Eastern Screech Owl during the winter roosting and spring nesting periods. The winter roosting period is typically between October to March, and the nesting period from March to June. During the fall of 2011 PixController discovered an Eastern Screech owl roosting in one of the nest boxes they had put up. They quickly installed a webcam into the box to watch the owl. On advice from local screech owl expert: Dick Byers, they installed several more owl boxes in the same area and started a study to monitor their behavior. Although screech owls are fairly common little is known about their behavior since they are nocturnal.

During the first year of monitoring the owl boxes there was a red phase owl using the boxes which was named Hunter. In 2013 PixController expanded the study to include six owl boxes in a dry wetland area which was called: “study area 1”. Study area 1 has owl boxes #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 and #6. Three further owl boxes were installed in an over grown farmland field which is called: study area 2, owl boxes: #7, #8, and #9. In study area 1 there is also an external pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera which we can remotely control and view all five cameras for an outside view. Study area 1 and study area 2 are about 300 yards apart.

The owl boxes in study area 1 are currently being used by a mature gray phase eastern screen owl named “Allie” and a red phase eastern screech owl in study area 2 which was named “Dakota”. At this point we do not know if these owls are male or female. The ultimate goal of this project is to have one of the owl boxes used for a nest in the spring 2014 mating season.

The screech owls will use the boxes during the day to roost and leave at night to go hunting. We will try and use the external PTZ camera to locate the owl at night hunting if in the range of the owl boxes. During the day we will position the PTZ camera on the box the owl is roosting in. When the owl roosts in the morning it will sit at the opening of the owl box for 1/2 to 1 hour before going in to roost for the day. Before the owl leaves the owl box at night it will sit at the opening for 1/2 to 1 hour before leaving. The PTZ camera will give you an outside view of the owl during these times.

Each owl box camera is set up to detect motion and capture photos when triggered. These photos can be viewed in the PixController Archives Section. We also record box activity such as which boxes are roosted in, box activity, and weather data in an Excel spreadsheet. We believe this is the first time a study such as this has been done for screech owls. For more information on the camera system click here: Camera Information.

This project is fully funded by PixController Inc. and by donations from our viewers for educational purposes. If you would like to know more about the project or become involved for educational purposes please Contact PixController. They would love to hear from you!

A major part of the success of this project belongs to Dick Byers of Stahlstown, PA. Dick’s intimate knowledge of the screech owls has helped attract the birds and keep them in the study area.