[Mystery bird] Western Screech-Owl, Megascops kennicottii, photographed in Arizona. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]
Image: Richard Ditch, 2005 [larger view].
Date Time Original: 2005:06:11 13:51:11
Exposure Time: 1/40
Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.
Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
We’re going to cheat in a minor way, and take full advantage of our knowledge that this bird was photographed in Arizona, where the feather “horns” and bright yellow eyes quickly reduce the possibilities to the two screech-owls. The transversely barred underparts make this a juvenile, and so plumage characters are going to be of precious little use. None of the leaves in the image is in focus, and I don’t immediately recognize the bark of the limb the bird is perched in, leaving me at a loss in the question of this bird’s habitat, too.
What are we left with? The bill of this mystery bird is dark, with just a hint of a pale tip; that points away from Whiskered (or, for that matter, from Eastern) and towards Western Screech-Owl. We can see some of a robust tarsus, again suggestive of Western rather than Whiskered, but the toes — which would be grotesquely thin on a Whiskered — are completely hidden.
In the field, I’d try to place myself so that I had a view of the toes. I’d also try to figure out what elevation I was at: both species occur at middle altitudes in the canyons, but only Western is at all expected below about 4,000 feet. And I’d look around, hard, to see where the parents were hiding.