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Eastern screech owl

Megascops asio

Description: There are two separate color morphs (dichromatic) of the Eastern screech owl – a gray phase and a reddish-brown (rufous) phase. They have streaking, barring and spots on their bodies. Beaks and eyes are yellow and ear tufts are noticeable on each side of the head. A somewhat darker rim outlines the lighter in color facial disk. Sexes are alike. Their large feet have feathered toes.

Size: Eastern screech owls are small in size. Females grow to an average length of 9.2 inches (23 cm) and weigh around 7.3 ounces (207 gr). Males tend to be slightly smaller, reaching an average length of 8.2 inches (21 cm) and weigh around seven ounces (198 gr).

Behavior: Eastern screech owls are nocturnal, non-migratory birds. Except during mating season and when sharing a nest, they are solitary. They are capable of flying through wooded areas, but also hop and walk on the ground.

Diet: The diet of these opportunistic hunters is extremely varied and their preference changes to include prey suitable in size when abundant, during which time they may store extra food in tree holes. Their prey includes large insects, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, small birds, crayfish and earthworms.

Senses: Their acute senses of hearing and vision helps these hunters find prey in dim light or darkness.

Communication: Screech owls use a variety of sounds or calls. Both sexes use the “trill” song, which may be solo or as a duet. This may be used during breeding season, to court, announce nest sites, arrival of food or to encourage fledglings from the nest. When alarmed they also call by use of other sounds such as hoots, rattles, screeches and barks.

Reproduction: Screech owl pairs, for the most part, are monogamous. Their courtship ritual includes the “trilliing” calls, swiveling and bobbing of the head and/or body. The ritual intensifies if necessary to get attention of the female. Nest is usually found in used tree holes or cavities. Two to seven eggs are laid and incubated for up 34 days, until all are hatched. The male help cares for the female while she incubates the eggs. The young usually leave the nest after four weeks and need no parental care after ten weeks.

Habitat/range: Eastern screech owls are found in almost all kinds of wooded habitats and adjust quite well to suburban and urban areas. They are found east of the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic coast; and from Florida and southern Texas in the south, north into southern Canada.

Status: Listed at Least Concern (LC) by IUCN; CITES Appendix II.