Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)

Eastern Screech-Owl

About the Bird

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Seen/Heard at
Decorah, Decorah North

Eastern Screech-Owls are non-migratory and live in the Decorah area year-round. They eat a wide variety of small animals, including rats, mice, squirrels, moles, and rabbits; flycatchers, swallows, thrushes, waxwings, finches, jays, grouse, doves, shorebirds, woodpeckers, and sometimes nestling screech owls; crayfish, tadpoles, frogs, and lizards; and invertebrates including insects and earthworms. Eastern Screech-Owls cache food for as long as four days and, like other owls, tend to eat the heads of prey first – a good diagnostic for owl kills!

Eastern Screech-Owls nest in cavities. They don’t dig holes or build nests, but they modify their chosen spot slightly by creating a depression for eggs. Egg laying usually takes place between early March and mid-September. Eastern Screech-Owls lay two to six white eggs per clutch and produce one clutch per year. Females incubate eggs for 27-34 days and both parents tend young, which leave the nest 26-30 days after hatching. To learn more, visit Cornell’s website.

Bird Range Maps of North America
Ridgely, R.S., T.F. Allnutt, T. Brooks, D.K. McNicol, D.W. Mehlman, B.E. Young, and J.R. Zook. 2003.
Digital Distribution Maps of the Birds of the Western Hemisphere, version 1.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, USA. Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy – Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International – CABS, World Wildlife Fund – US, and Environment Canada – WILDSPACE.
Web Link: http://bit.ly/2ynPQ5I
Johnsgard, P. A. 1988. North American owls: biology and natural history. Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Owl photo: By DickDaniels (http://carolinabirds.org/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons

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General Description
Eastern Screech-Owls are reddish-brown, brown, or grey with short ear-tufts, blocky heads, figure-8 shaped faces, and yellow eyes. They are patterned with spots, bands, and streaks that give them excellent camouflage against tree bark. Their color morphs and plumage variation may be related to the dominant tree species around them, although Cornell notes that “…the two common color morphs, gray and rufous, represent individual variation and don’t vary consistently by region or subspecies”.

Although Eastern Screech-Owls don’t migrate, females may move far outside their home range during severe food shortages. Young may disperse great distances for the same reason.

Length: 6.3-9.8 in/16-25 cm
Wingspan: 18.9-24.0 in/48-61 cm
Weight: 4.3-8.6 oz/121-244 g

Wing Design
Owls have unique wing and feather features that reduce sound. Their large wings let them fly very slowly, which lessens the amount an owl needs to flap. Serrations on the leading edge of their wing feathers break up air pockets, which prevents a ‘swooshing’ sound, while the soft fringe on an owl’s trailing wing edge and the unique soft texture of its feathers streamline its body and help reduce flight-related noise. For more information, check out the owl pages!

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Range Map

Range Map