EASTERN SCREECH OWL
Strigidae (typical owls)
HABITAT AND RANGE
Eastern screech owls can be found almost anywhere in North America west of the Rockies. Eastern screech-owls have the broadest ecological niche of any North American owl. They are found in virtually all kinds of habitats below about 1500 meters elevation, from urbanized surroundings to boreal forests. They are generally found in wooded areas but do well in urban and suburban areas and acclimatize readily to human presence, often using bird boxes for nesting. These birds are cavity nesters and use natural cavities or those created by other animals.
Eastern screech owls have two color phases-red and grey-that reflect the color of tree bark in their habitat. They are very small owls weighing a maximum of 8 oz. with wingspans of 18-24 inches. They are the only small eastern owls that have “ear” tufts.
Eastern screeches are one of the most strictly nocturnal owls in North America. They hunt large insects, mice, shrews and small birds after dusk. They use their excellent hearing and night vision to detect and catch prey.
REPRODUCTION AND LIFESPAN
Screech owls nest in tree cavities rarely using any nesting material. Eggs are usually laid February-July depending on geographical region with 2-8 eggs laid per clutch. Incubation lasts 26 days with the female incubating the eggs and the male providing her with food. The young remain in the nest for a month and will leave their parents after 10 weeks.
Owls have offset ears. One ear is placed higher on the side of the head than the other ear. This serves the same purpose as having one ear on each side of the head; it allows owls to detect the source of sounds with very high fidelity in a 3-D environment. Despite the name, screech owls do not screech. They emit soft mournful whinnies or cries. Despite their small size, these birds can be very aggressive when alarmed using sharp talons and beaks to defend themselves. Owls have soft feathers with barbed tips; this allows them to achieve very silent and stealthy flight.