Jops' Owls

The birds in my backyard are the usual suspects in most urban homes: the Eurasian Tree Sparrows (aka Maya), Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Pied Fantails, Zebra Doves and Olive-backed Sunbirds. We also have a resident Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker and the occasional White-collared Kingfisher and Black-naped Orioles. During the fruiting season of the mango trees, we have lots of Colasisis hanging out too. But that's about it.

I bet the list is pretty much the same (plus-minus a couple of other species) in urban backyards throughout Manila so imagine our surprise when we heard an immature Philippine Scops Owl (PSO) calling in Jops' backyard! He'd been hearing an adult owl calling a few months back but never got to spot it. Just last April 9 (our second bird day!) we came home to an immature PSO calling and sounding very close. Its call  is completely different from the adult's, having a more high pitched "pssssst - pssssst" sound. After a bit of searching, we finally saw the fluffy bird perched not too high up a mango tree. It stayed a while for a couple of nights in the same tree, perched quite low.

This is one of the two immature Philippine Scops Owls in his backyard. PHOTO BY JOPS.

It took me a couple of days before I was able to see the adult owls. Seeing them was an amazing experience in itself but the fact that it was in Jops' backyard made it even more fantastic. Who would have thought?! We've been hearing stories from other birders about seeing PSOs in the UP Diliman campus but we haven't been able to see them.

This is one of the adult owls in his backyard. Much harder to spot! PHOTO BY JOPS.

As the days progressed, the owls have been a bit more difficult to spot. Their calls would be heard coming from the trees in the adjacent houses. Some nights they would come back to Jops' garden and some nights they would stay further away. I guess with the young ones learning to fly and hunt, they needed lots of "practice area" as they got better and better at it =)

A few afternoons ago, Jops and I tried looking for their day roost. We scanned the trees in their backyard but the owls weren't there. We politely asked his neighbors if we could enter and scan the trees in their gardens for the owls. The neighbors were pleasantly surprised when we told them they had owls in their backyard, and seeing their amazed reactions when we told them we weren't joking was priceless. Their house help confirmed seeing the owls and even told us matter-of-factly, "Ay oo, may anak yung mga kuwago. Dalawa." ("Oh yes, the owls have babies. Two.") which confirmed our earlier speculation that we were hearing two individuals. We scanned the trees and the area beneath them. No owls but we saw splotches of poo on the ground under a low perch in their mango tree....

We first saw white splotches of poo in an area
under their mango tree.

... and also some feathers...

We saw one big feather and lots of the tiny, baby feathers too!

... we also found one pellet!!!

Can you see the round pellet in the middle of the photo?

Here's a better look at the single pellet we collected. We have yet to
examine its contents! 
The PSO's pellet looks completely different from that of the pellets of the Philippine Eagle Owl, but that's another blog =)

So, the story continues with Jops' Philippine Scops Owl family, each night yielding a different experience. Some nights they call early, some nights quite late. There are nights they pass through Jops' backyard, other nights they spend in the neighbors trees. I feel lucky enough to have seen the immature owls and the adult owls, hear them calling nearby while having dinner and conversation with good friends (Trinket writes about it in her blog), see the baby owl slurp down a lizard, and even find a pellet. It is a lucky break and a HUGE blessing to have such wonderful backyard birds!


  1. you have 2 owls down and it's only april! dahan dahan lang... baka kung saan saan lumabas ung mga owl nyan!

    thanks for sharing these owls with us! &thanks for the link!

    1. Haha! Oo nga e, and we didn't expect to see them so near to home!├╝ you and Adri are always welcome to visit Philippie and company├╝