Nature Notes: Screech owl

Eastern screech owls have large eyes well-adapted for night vision — and hunting.

The Eastern screech owl, Megascops asio, is a year-round native of Maryland. This bird is a night hunter that eats mice, insects, worms and small birds, including songbirds and starlings. They regurgitate pellets containing the bones, feathers and fur of their prey. Investigation of the pellets located around their nesting areas can provide information about their diet.

Their large eyes are well-adapted for night vision. The adults are short and stocky, typically around 8 inches tall. They have tufted “ears,” which are only feathers, that aid in their concealment. The length of the tufts vary widely in different birds. Coloration of the birds is typically gray or rusty brown.

Screech owls are usually monogamous and mate for life. Males are smaller than the females. These birds are well-adapted to suburban areas where they fledge more chicks, possibly due to less predator competition for food. Like other predator birds, they fight fiercely for food with weaker siblings, sometimes being driven from the nest. They are not endangered and their numbers are increasing. Screech owls roost in dead trees or snags where available. They will sometimes nest in backyard boxes if provided for them.

Screech owls have a strange sounding call, which is not actually a screech, but is more likely to sound like a unique single low-tone warble in males, and a higher sound that has been likened to the whinny of a horse in females. These sounds may not be completely related to the gender of the birds. In addition to their night calls, they can sometimes be located in the day by the commotion of birds flying around their resting areas, which warn others of the danger from the small predator.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, insights and experiences, not personal attacks. Ad hominem criticisms are not allowed. Focus on ideas instead.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
No trolls. Off-topic comments and comments that bait others are not allowed.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
Say it once. No repeat or repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.