Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl

Details About The Eastern Screech Owl

  • General Information

    Eastern Screech Owls are found in two color "phases": red and gray. They are small tufted owls that are often mistaken for baby great horned owls. Eastern Screech Owls have a yellow or greenish yellow bill with yellow eyes. Like most owls, their legs and feet are feathered. Gray phase birds have varying amounts of dark or black streaks on their underside and dark mottling contrasting sharply with overall gray plumage. Red phase birds are similarly marked with red replacing the gray color. Intermediate brown phase is also quite common.

    Latin Name: Megascops asio
    Class: Aves
    Order: Strigiformes
    Family: Strigidae
    Length: 8-9 inches
    Weight: 6-8 ounces
    Wingspan: 20-22 inches
    Common Name: Quavering Owl, Trilling Owl, Whistling Owl, Demon Owl
    Etymology: otus (Latin) - "a horned or eared owl"; asio (Latin) - "a kind of horned owl"

  • Flight, Voice & Habitat

    The Eastern Screech Owl's flight is rapid steady wing beats with occasional brief glides.

    Eastern Screech Owls make a huge variety of sounds, including territorial and mating songs. The two primary sounds are a whinny (or tremolo whistle) and a "bouncing" trill. They are also famous for the loud screech they will make in defense when attacked.

    Their habitat is extremely varied, generally open woodlands close to fields and meadows, old apple orchards.

  • Nesting

    Like most owls, Eastern Screech Owls do not construct a nest. They are cavity nesters, often using abandoned flicker holes or openings in buildings, and will nest in bird boxes. Pair bonding is monogamous and apparently lifelong. They generally lay an average of 3-4 white eggs, although they can lay anywhere from 1-8 depending on prey availability. They have an incubation period of approximately 26 days. Clutch size tends to increase as one climbs higher in gradation; also as you move from South to North and East to West. Fledging period is 30-32 days.

  • Distribution

    Eastern Screech Owls are found in the eastern United States, including Texas and the Dakotas, and southern Canada.

  • Food

    Eastern Screech Owls typically hunt in a sit-and-wait method, using short flights to capture prey (averaging 6-10 feet). Most hunting perches are on open branches, farther away from the trunk. Females are more likely to perch closer to the trunk than males, possibly due to their larger size needing a thicker branch for support. Eastern Screech Owls also perch relatively low to the ground, probably to gain an unobstructed view and direct access to the ground. They will also choose higher perches when the moon is full, perhaps because the additional light allows them to hunt from higher perches. These owls are generalists, hunting everything from birds, insects, reptiles, small mammals, leeches and fish. Their success rates are higher when hunting invertebrate prey; eastern screech owls average a success rate of about 23%.

  • Current Resident Birds

    Otus, a male Eastern Screech Owl, is named for the former Latin name of this species, Otus Asio. Otus moved to Carolina Raptor Center from south of the border -- the SC border that is -- in Rock Hill, SC. Weighing about a fourth of a pound, this grey phase Screech Owl is full grown. Their small size makes them prey for larger raptors and other predators, but their coloring makes them able to hide in plain sight, easily blending in to the forest landscape.

    Andi, the Eastern Screech Owl, is a North Carolina Native who joined the Carolina Raptor Center team in 2003. A "gray phase" screech owl, Andi is named for a former staff member. Also nicknamed "the Stick," Andi is a master at camouflage, skinnying up next to his tree trunk perch to become almost invisible.

    Lana, a male Eastern Screech Owl, was originally thought to have been a female when he arrived from Jonas Ridge, NC, in 2004. Later DNA testing revealed that this rather large bird was actually a male - its size atypical of its sex. Lana was named for Lana Turner, star of stage and screen.

    Akai, the Eastern Screech Owl, moved to Carolina Raptor Center from Coastal North Carolina in 2007. Her name means "red" in Japanese - an appropriate moniker for a "red phase" Screech Owl. She is bonded to anouther permanent resident "Lana" also a "red phase" Screech Owl. She likes to travel to education programs.

    Red-phase Eastern Screech Owl, Ringo, is certainly an education team rock star. Named for the Beatles' drummer, Ringo Starr, this program bird is a beautiful ambassador for his species and gets by with a little help from his keeper friends. A resident of Carolina Raptor Center since 2015, Ringo hails from in Frank Liske Park in Concord, NC.

  • Fun Facts & Other Interesting Information

    Eastern Screech Owls have great camoflague to hide from predators. They will even sway back and forth like a tree branch to evade capture. Ninja owls!

    The 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei has a scene with a screech owl. During the scene, the owl disturbs the main characters' sleep with its call. The bird's call is not realistically portrayed in the movie, sounding more like the screech of a barn owl.