The Coastal Western Screech-owl is a small resident forest owl that is only found in Canada along the BC coast. The owl has small ear-tufts, yellow eyes and is very well camouflaged with its grey-brown streaks. You are more likely to hear this owl before you see it and its call is easily recognizable due to its distinct series of whistled hoots that gradually speed up throughout the call, like a bouncing ball (see Birds of N America to hear and learn more).
Once a common owl, the Coastal Western Screech-owl (Megascops kennicottii kennicottii) has experienced significant population declines over the past two decades in southwestern BC. A primary threat to their population is habitat loss, including the loss of nesting sites from the removal of dead trees and snags. The expanding population of Barred owls in our area have also had an impact by predating upon and displacing the much smaller Screech-owls.
In 2016, in collaboration with Madrone Environmental and other interested biologists, we implemented a Western Screech-owl nest box program to provide alternate nest sites in forested habitats where natural nest cavities were lacking. This program was based on a similar successful program initiated on Vancouver Island. The intent is to install nest boxes and monitor their use along with population data, with all the data shared in an online database.
In 2016, we installed 99 boxes throughout the Fraser Valley and on on the North Shore. We worked with other private sector and government biologists to monitor the owls, optimize box site selection, and share population information. In 2017, we have a goal of installing another 101 boxes in the Sea to Sky corridor and additional sites in the Fraser Valley. We rely heavily on volunteers to assist with this project as it covers a much larger area than we typically operate in. The intent is to eventually have the boxes monitored by a network of trained citizen scientists. These volunteers will collect important information about nest box occupancy and productivity which is entered into the Western Screech-owl Nest Box Project Database (Bird Studies Canada). The long-term goal of the project is to provide suitable nesting sites and collect information on Screech-owl distribution, abundance and nest success. This data is essential for developing sound conservation strategies, identifying key conservation actions, and evaluating the effectiveness of the nest box program.
If you are interested in being a volunteer for the Western Screech-owl nest box program, please sign-up here to receive notifications of upcoming opportunities.