Know your Michigan Birds: Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl by Kevin Povenz

Eastern Screech Owl, photo by Kevin Povenz

The Owl Pages says (in part) that the Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio):

…is a small, nocturnal woodland Owl with short ear-tufts and yellow eyes. There is a greyish-brown, red and grey morph, with intermediates also occurring. The word “asio” is Latin for ‘Horned Owl’. Eastern Screech Owls have also been called the Common Screech Owl, Ghost Owl, Dusk Owl, Little-eared Owl, Spirit Owl, Little Dukelet, Texas Screech-Owl, Whickering Owl, Little Gray Owl, Mottled Owl, Red Owl, Mouse Owl, Cat Owl, Shivering Owl, and the Little Horned Owl.

…A nocturnal bird, with activity beginning after sunset. The Eastern Screech-Owl flies fairly rapidly with a steady wingbeat (about 5 strokes/second). They rarely glide or hover, but may fly with erratic movements, when manoeuvring through wooded areas. Their wings are broad and the head is held tucked in giving the bird a stubby appearance when flying.When threatened, an Eastern Screech Owl will stretch its body and tighten its feathers in order to look like a branch stub to avoid detection, but will take flight when it knows it has been detected. In open roosts, gray-phase birds tend to roost next to a tree trunk, whereas red-phase birds tend to roost in outer foliage, possibly because of thermal requirements.

…Eastern Screech Owls hunt from dusk to dawn, with most hunting being done during the first four hours of darkness. They hunt mainly from perches, occasionally hovering to catch prey. This Owl mainly hunts in open woodlands, along the edges of open fields or wetlands, or makes short forays into open fields. When prey is spotted, the Owl dives quickly and seizes it in its talons. They will also capture flying insects on the wing.

…Breeding season for Eastern Screech Owls is generally around mid April, but may range from mid March to mid May. They have an elaborate courtship ritual. Males approach females, calling from different branches until they are close. The male then bobs and swivels his head, bobs his entire body, and even slowly winks one eye at the female. If she ignores him, bobbing and swivelling motions intensify. If she accepts him, she moves close and they touch bills and preen each other.

… Eastern Screech Owls inhabit open mixed woodlands, deciduous forests, parklands, wooded suburban areas, riparian woods along streams and wetlands (especially in drier areas), mature orchards, and woodlands near marshes, meadows, and fields. They will avoid dense forests because Great Horned Owls use that habitat. They will also avoid high elevation forests. Eastern Screech Owls roost mainly in natural cavities in large trees, including cavities open to the sky during dry weather. In suburban and rural areas they may roost behind loose boards on buildings, boxcars, or water tanks. They will also roost in dense foliage of trees, usually on a branch next to the trunk, or in dense scrubby brush.

Read on for lots more about screech owls and definitely make owlpages.com your go-to for all things owlish (including screech owl gear).

View Kevin’s photo bigger on Flickr, see a lot more in his fantastic Birds of Prey slideshow and follow him at Kevin Povenz Photos on Facebook.

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