Lessons From a Baby Screech Owl Along the Indian River Lagoon

A baby screech owl sleeps in a tree the morning after its "bib jump." (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2014.)
A baby screech owl sleeps in a tree the morning after its “big jump.” (Photo Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 2014.)

Recently, I have had the most amazing experience as a family of screech owls decided to use the nesting box that is literally right outside my bedroom window.

My husband helped me put up the box. We live in Sewall’s Point one lot off the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Screech owls are common here but never did I dream  of watching them so up close.

The family set up house about two months ago. The first owl I encounted was “Dad.” I noticed that every day, he was sitting in a vine growing in the strangler fig tree by our front door. At first, I did not know he was “dad,” but I soon figured this out. He was a funny little owl, standing about six inches, with crossed looking eyes and a flabbergasted  expression like Jack Nicholson. I tried not to scare him but soon realized he was not afraid and I could take photos. I took them quickly and darted away, thanking  him for living at my house.

dad screech owl

After a few weeks, my husband Ed, who gets up much earlier than I do, told me he thought he had seen the little owl flying into the nesting box in the dim light of morning. Within a week or so, one day I heard soft chirping inside the box. At that point, I knew there must be a mate and chicks, as I had read that screech owls are monogamous. Amazing!

Within another week or so, one Sunday afternoon,  the mom stuck her head out. She was much rounder than her counterpart and redder in color. She looked exasperated like the growing chicks were restless below her, pushing her up in the box.

mom owl nesting box


Within a few days, she flew and joined her mate in the tree. In the evenings or mornings chicks soon started to emerge and then would pop back inside.

baby in nesting box


The mother and father owls sat silently with great patience for many days waiting for the baby owls to leave the box.

mom owl in tree

Ed and I could never figure out how many babies were there were. We thought two or three, as some seemed bigger or smaller, and had different faces, but really, they all kind of looked the same!

Then one evening, on a Friday, Ed wanted to go out to dinner and as he went upstairs to get ready, I heard, “Jacqui! A baby is out of the box!” Outside, I threw down the hose, water gushing, leaving my flip flops behind and ran up the stairs as fast as I could to see a  fluffy owl sitting along the chair on the upstairs balcony just under the nesting box. It was as large, if not larger, than its parents!

baby on chair


I lay on the floor looking under the blinds and watched this baby owl decide to jump thirteen feet to the deck below. Incredible! I worried like a mother myself!

looking down

“Oh Ed, what if he gets hurt? What if he breaks a leg and we have to take him to the Treasure Coast Wildlife Hospital?”

“Why would you want to do that? ” asked Ed. You’re the one who aways  says ‘let nature take its course’…”

“That’s not funny Ed, it’s just a baby…”

“Let’s go to dinner,” Ed replied.

I knew I was pushing it, but this was a once in lifetime opportunity.

“Oh, I can’t yet, I have to watch it jump! Look it’s moving its head in circles like a chicken! Look! Oh it just crashed into the railing! It got up! It’s trying to jump! Oh my gosh! Should I take it down myself….? ”


So Ed sat at his computer as dusk fell and I lay on my stomach watching and praying for the baby owl and restraining myself from messing with Nature.  I heard the mother and father calling and the baby owl inched closer to the edge of the balcony getting up his nerve, jumping high and then going low, sitting on a chair, walking the railing, flapping his little wings. And then finally, he looked down and just jumped!

“He jumped!” I screamed from the bedroom.

Ed came up the stairs, and we watched, in the dim light of evening the baby owl hop into the vine along side his parents. He had not hurt himself. He trusted his instincts and he succeeded.

Night came and the owls spoke to each other in a tongue I could not understand,  but I knew it must be a proud day for those  parents and for the baby owl too.

Ed and went to dinner, we toasted the baby owl, and all I talked the whole night was the power and faith, of being able to get up the nerve to jump, unafraid into one’s destiny…


10 thoughts on “Lessons From a Baby Screech Owl Along the Indian River Lagoon

  1. We had a similar experience. We had a box where were have had a family each year. One Mother’s Day morning I was washing dishes at the sink (feeling a bit insignificant because I have no children) and looked up that morning, and three little babies stuck out their fuzzy heads for the first time and pronounced “Happy Mother’s Day”. We love our Screechers. Great story Jacqui.
    Janet Alford

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