Eastern Screech Owl

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 bones, feathers, and fur of their prey. Investigation of the pellets located around their nesting areas can provide information about their diet.

Photo courtesy of Maryland DNR

Their large eyes are well adapted for night vision. The adults are short, stocky birds, typically around eight 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 grey 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.

Article by Claude Eans, FCFCDB Member

Nature note for 7/14/2019