Funny Eastern Screech Owl behavior

Earlier this season we heard a funny story about Eastern Screech Owls from a bird walk leader. He told of checking the Wood Duck boxes on his property one year and finding an Eastern Screech Owl inside one. The owl didn’t seem to mind his presence so he gingerly started to clear out the box around the owl. Still the owl didn’t move. He managed to clear out the box by gently moving the owl from one side of the box to the other as he cleaned. The roosting owl didn’t mind at all.

Later, our trip leader said, he learned that if found while roosting in the daytime, Eastern Screech Owls don’t mind being handled and might even like to have a scratch on the back of the neck. Sure enough, the next nest season, when he went to clear out one of the Wood Duck nest boxes, he found a roosting owl. He gave it a neck scratch, which it seemed to enjoy.

In the following years, to make nest box cleaning go a little bit faster, he would bring his wife out to the boxes with him. When he climbed up the ladder to clean out the box, if an owl was inside, he would pass the owl down to his wife to hold onto while he quickly cleared debris out of the box.

I tried to find information about similar behavior online but I haven’t been able to find anything. The guide’s story sounds unbelievable to me, but extremely funny. Have you heard of something like this? Could it be true?

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