Screech owls have a plaintive, mellow trill that descends in tone like a horse whining. These birds belong to the genus Megascops and are restricted to the Americas. Although there are twenty one known species as of now, newer species are discovered from time to time.
Similar to other owls, screech owl females are larger than the males. They have a compact size and shape. They are small and agile. They are about 7 to 10 inches tall and have a wingspan of about 18 to 24 inches. They have prominent, wide-set feather tufts with bright yellow eyes. They have different brownish hues with whitish, patterned undersides. This coloration helps them to camouflage against the tree bark. They have well-developed raptorial claws and curved bills. They use these to tear their prey into pieces that are small enough for them to swallow. They tend to carry their prey to the nest and then eat it.
Their habitat mostly includes semi-open landscapes with old hollowed trees. They have a good sense of hearing that helps them locate their prey in any type of habitat. They prefer habitats with oak, mixed pine and oak, and sycamore. The northern screech owls are found in New Jersey, New York, etc. The eastern screech owls are found throughout the eastern states of America and southern Canada. The western screech owls are common residents of western US, Canada, and Mexico.
These are basically solitary birds that make their nests during the late winter breeding season. The males prefer making nests in cavities or even reuse the abandoned nests of other birds. This is their way of attracting females for mating. The females select their mate based on the best cavity or nest and the amount of food present inside. After laying the eggs, the male is responsible for feeding the female during the incubation period. They carry out biparental care of the young ones and follow monogamy. They fledge only one young per year.
Their diet consists of a variety of prey like small rodents, rats, insects, reptiles, small mammals like bats and rabbits, and other small birds. Their superior sense of hearing helps them locate their prey anywhere.
Eastern Screech Owl
- The eastern screech owl is scientifically called Megascops asio.
- It is the smallest species of owls in north America.
- It is gray, brownish-gray, or reddish-brown in color.
- It eats a variety of insects, small birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.
- It normally has a clutch of about 5 young owls.
- The habitat consists of forests, wooded swamps, cemeteries, and suburban areas.
- It is scientifically called Otus kennicottoo.
- It was first described in 1867 and its name commemorates the American naturalist Robert Kennicott.
- When it is scared or threatened, it tends to stretch its body and tighten its feathers. This makes it looks longer and thinner and many animals are tricked into thinking that it is just a branch of a tree. This makes the owl very hard to find.