Many of you have seen Big Red and Sparkle in our programs. Here is a story and more about screech owls named Sparkle and Big Red that can be read aloud and shared by the whole family. Upper elementary students might read this to their younger brothers and sisters.
From: Talons on Teaching, a project of Wildlife Recovery Association
Chapter One: The Eastern Screech Owl
The Storm – The Story of a Screech Owl Family by Barb Rogers
Three tiny nestling screech owls had hatched from their eggs inside a safe old hollow tree deep in the forest. They were just three days old. They stayed warm under the soft down of their mother. All four owls were hungry. They were waiting patiently for their dinner.
Outside, a cold wind was blowing. Distant thunder warned them of an approaching storm. The owls were safe inside the hollow tree, but they were very hungry.
The father owl, Big Red, hunted for mice near the creek. It was a dry spring, and mice should be out at night, looking for old seeds and a drink of water. Big Red waited patiently next to the trunk of an old oak tree. Acorns from last fall should be under the dry leaves on the ground. a mouse should be searching for the acorns under the dry leaves. But no mice came to the creek.
Big Red flew on silent wings, darting between tall maple trees. He stopped at the edge of the forest, swooped down and caught a small beetle in his tiny talons. This would give him energy to continue the hunt. He swallowed the beetle in one gulp.
Three tiny baby owls and one mother owl were waiting for him to bring home some dinner. He needed to hunt for more food.
Beyond the edge of the forest was an old barn. Big Red could see that corn and oat seeds had spilled near the barn. Mice would want to eat these seeds. Big Red would surprise the mice! The barn was beyond the edge of his territory and it was out in the open. It was dangerous to hunt there, but he needed to feed three tiny nestlings and the mother owl. He would be quick. He flew to the side of the barn and dug his talons into the wood. He flattened himself against the barn and tried to disappear.
It was then that Big Red noticed that the storm was building. Rain began to fall in large splattering drops. The wind blew in gusts and almost pushed Big Red off the side of the barn. He needed to find a safer place. He needed a hollow tree. Big Red could see a dark hole on top of a roof from his place on the barn. It looked like a hole in a hollow tree. That would be a safe place to stay during the storm.
Finally, the rain slowed down. Big Red flew quicly to the opening in the hollow tree. He dove down the entrance hole. It was hard to hold on. Chunks of powdery, smelly stuff fell all around him. He finally found a ledge and rested. Lightning flashed and the rain pelted against the tree. But it was not a tree. It was something very strange with smooth, slippery, smelly sides.
Finally, the rain stopped. Big Red could see the moon high above. there was still time to hunt. Three nestling owls and one mother owl were waiting for their dinner. Big Red peeked over the top of the entrance hole. He could see a mouse running along the side of the barn. It would need to come out into the clearing to get the corn and oats. Big Red waited for just the right moment, and then swooped down, caught the mouse in his talons, and flew swiftly to a tree on the edge of the forest.
Then, Big Red froze. A huge dark shape slid by on silent wings. Down out of the moonlit sky came an enormous owl and caught a second mouse. Big Red did not move. He held his wings tight to his body, and put his horn feathers straight up to look just like a tree branch. The enormous owl flew up to the roof of the barn, and then flew silently into the night.
Big Red turned to the woods. He was on his home territory and it felt good. three tiny nestling owls and one mother owl were waiting for dinner. Big Red sped through the woods to his safe hollow tree that was his home.