What is an Eastern Screech Owl?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen
Rats are a common meal for the Eastern screech owl.
Rats are a common meal for the Eastern screech owl.

The eastern screech owl is relatively small compared to most other owls. They average about 7 inches (20 cm) in length. Their color is either mottled red or mottled gray. They inhabit a large section of North America, but they’re centered on the eastern side of the United States, with some specimens being found as far north as the southern part of Canada.

These birds live a solitary life style for most of the year. They are absolutely nocturnal, and during the day, they hide themselves away in inaccessible areas, such as hollowed-out trees. They’ve also been known to hide inside people's roofs on occasion. The birds do not migrate, and the males are quite territorial about their breeding area, usually defending it all year long.

One problem for the eastern screech owl is that its not a very big bird. They are often preyed upon by other owls and other predatory birds like hawks and eagles. Their chicks and eggs can be taken by various snakes, along with raccoons and opossums. These birds are very aggressive in defense of their young and will physically attack predators when necessary.

Like most other owl species, the eastern screech owl is a very skilled hunter that uses its powerful night vision and hearing to zero in on prey. They will generally eat almost anything small enough for them to handle. For starters, they eat a large number of insect species and other invertebrates, including moths, worms, snails and crustaceans. Secondly, they eat many different kinds of small mammals, including mice, rats, squirrels and even bats. They also eat any kinds of reptiles or amphibians they can catch, including salamanders and small snakes.

These animals make a very important contribution ecologically. They are often one of the main predators of smaller animals in many areas. Without them, some experts say that there would be overpopulation issues among rodents and other prey species.

The eastern screech owl generally forms a lifelong pair bond with its mate, although there is some evidence of males with two female mates, and there may be some other exceptions. They usually nest in the same kinds of areas where they den during the day, which includes the aforementioned hollow trees or house-roofs and other cubbies. A typical clutch would include about five eggs, and it takes the female several days to lay them. The incubation period is typically about three weeks, and the chicks learn to fly when they reach about four weeks of age.

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    • Rats are a common meal for the Eastern screech owl.
      By: Ilia Shcherbakov
      Rats are a common meal for the Eastern screech owl.