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Eastern Screech-Owl Otus asio


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Eastern Screech-Owl, gray morph
credit: Wolfgang Wander/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Strigidae, Owls view all from this family

Description ADULT Either reddish brown overall or gray-brown. Upperparts are beautifully patterned with fine dark lines and white spots; feathers on underparts are marked with dark central streak and fine dark barring. Note the staring yellow eyes, pale-tipped yellowish bill, and "ear" tufts that can be raised at will. JUVENILE Similar to adult.

Dimensions Length: 10" (25 cm)

Habitat Favors a wide range of wooded and lightly wooded habitats from forests to wooded suburban gardens and parks.

Observation Tips More easily heard than seen, but sometimes tolerant of human observers in suburban settings where it is not disturbed.

Range Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains, New England, Texas, Mid-Atlantic, Eastern Canada, Southeast, Plains, Western Canada, Florida

Voice Typical territorial call comprises a plaintive, descending whistle followed by a rapid series of tremulous, whinnying piping whistles. Other vocalizations include various screeching and hooting calls.

Discussion Widespread owl of wooded habitats, including mature suburban gardens. Mostly nocturnal, but sometimes starts feeding at dusk; prey includes small mammals and birds, insects, and other invertebrates. Screeching song and calls are a familiar sound, and this is the only small, "eared" owl you are likely to encounter within range covered by this book. Nests in natural tree holes and old woodpecker holes; readily takes to the provision of nest boxes. Several subspecies occur in North America, and birds also occur in two color morph extremes (gray and rufous) with intermediates. Shows considerable variation in relative proportions of different morphs across range: typically gray predominates in north and west areas, and in Texas, while rufous is commonest in east. Given this variation, sexes are similar.