Screech Owl

Western Screech Owl


Most of the United States


Forests and woodlands.


A small stocky body, the screech owl boasts a partial facial disk and conspicuous ear tufts. This disk,which funnels sound waves to the ears, plus asymmetrical ear locations provide excellent hearing, while yellow- colored, binocular eyes give superb vision. The existence of more rods than cones in the owl's eyes creates good night vision. Because an owl's eyes cannot move in their sockets, the owl must turn its head and can do so to 270 degrees. The wings are long, the tail short and rounded, feet are short and the toes may or may not be feathered. Plumage ranges from mottled reds, grays to browns in color.

Western Screech Owl

This nocturnal owl frequently sleeps perched at the entrance to its hollow. If startled or threatened, it disappears into the hollow. Possessing a fierce disposition when nesting and protecting young, the screech owl launches diving attacks upon the intruder. If out and visible by day, this owl can be a victim of mobbing by smaller birds. Night vision, excellent hearing and silent flight help this bird of prey hunt. This successful species adapts to many environments as long as there are tree hollows for nesting. Limited migration exists.


Owls do not build nests. The screech owl nests in tree cavities, 3-5 white eggs are laid with April being the common nesting month. Late May and June are the brood departure dates.

Interesting Facts:

The common call of a screech owl is not the assumed screech but rather a quavering whistle. The Eastern and Western subspecies have different calls; the eastern being a rising and falling wail like the whinny of a horse while the western is a series of hollow hoots, running into tremolo at the end. "Otos" was a Greek owl with ear tufts while the Latin meaning of asio s a kind of horned owl. The genus Otus is one of the most common owl species in North America.

Western Screech Owl
Native Utah Animal
Class: birds
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Megascops
Species: kennicottii
Length: 7-10 inches; wingspan: 18- 24 inches
Weight: 4-8 ounces
Average Lifespan: 10-15 years
Wild Diet: Mostly mice and insects, occasionally other small mammals and birds. Owl's digestive powers are more limited than diurnal birds of prey, therefore, owl castings consist of more bones as well as hairs and feathers.
Zoo Diet: Mice, crickets, Bird-of-Prey mix.
Predators: Man, diurnal hawks, Great Horned Owl.
USFWS Status: Not Listed
CITES Status: Not Listed
Where at the Zoo? Off Exhibit: Education Animal Facility

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