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The Interesting Little Predator Called the Screech Owl

It is easy to get tricked into thinking of owls as large birds of prey. However, not all of them are large. Screech owls don’t get very big, though they also aren’t tiny. The image gives a great idea of the size of the adult birds. Yes, it is perched on a person’s gloved hand.

There are actually two species of screech owls in North America; the Western Screech Owl (Megascops kennicottii) and the Eastern Screech Owl. However, there isn’t a great deal that is different between them, except their range. Both of them occur, overwinter, and breed in Montana.

Screech owls aren’t much larger than an American Robin, though they are much stockier in build. They have short tails and ear tufts. The wingspan is up to about two feet, which is small compared to many of the larger owls. An adult can also weigh up to nearly three-quarters of a pound.

Screech owls have barred and speckled coloration, with gray, brown, and rufous coloring blending to make the bird rather difficult to see. This is even more so since screech owls, like most other owls, are nocturnal hunters. They will often sit in the entrance to their nests during the day, though, and people rarely see them, even when they are in plain sight.

Screech owls love the forests, particularly those with deciduous trees, and they live up to around 6,000 feet. Unlike most owls, screech owls are also quite tolerant of humans. They can be found around parks, in suburbs, and near houses, particularly if there are deciduous trees nearby. On occasion, they will even use nest boxes that are put out for them.

They live as far south the desert southwest and will often make nests high up in a saguaro cactus. They also live as far north as Alaska.

The name is a little misleading, though. Western screech owls don’t screech. They produce a rapid series of hoots. That is one of the differences between the western and eastern species as eastern screech owls do screech.

These birds often take prey that is larger than the owl, for instance, rabbits and hares. However, they also eat insects, bats, rodents, and even earthworms.

Despite its size, screech owls are formidable predators.

  • Do you think this is an interesting little owl?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I love owls
    • I don’t care for owls
  • Have you ever seen an owl in the wild?

    • Yes
    • No

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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17 Comments

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  1. I do not remember seeing an owl but I have seen a chouette which here in French Canada is also an owl but with a very round face and no tufts. I really enjoy an owl’s hou-hou mostly at night. Interesting, engaging and environmental post.

    • I had to look up chouette. What I gather is that “une chouette” is simply French for “owl”, rather than a specific kind of owl. However, some of the pictures shown in relation to the French words show what we call a barn owl. Perhaps I can write something about barn owls and you can let me know if this is the type of owl that you are referring to, with the round face?

      I find it interesting that when chouette is used as an adjective, it means great or nice.

      • Yes chouette is an owl here in Canada but as I said it is an owl with a very round face and not tufts. I do not know why the French Canadian have decided to call this very specific type of owl a chouette. Maybe I can find out and write a post about it… According to you it is a barn owl. Probably but I am not sure. And yes chouette means nice, great and sometimes beautiful in French. Cannot wait to see your post on barn owl…

    • That is something I learned back in the days of Helium. I did a lot of title seeding, which is simply coming up with titles for the writers to write to. It is amazing how many totally different articles can be written about one title and the more general the title, the more ‘across-the-board’ the articles end up being. If a title was as general as “About Owls”, it wouldn’t surprise me to see several hundred totally different articles written about it, from different angles, with different information, and some of them could even be humorous and entertaining rather than strictly informative.

    • Years ago, I was involved in the rescue of a barn owl. It had been clipped by a car and wasn’t hurt, but was dazed, so it was trying to hold on to the middle line in a highway. It was removed to safety and when it recovered, it was turned loose.

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