About The Screech Owl

Eastern and Western screech owl are different but very similar birds. They both have the same color variations having white undersides streaked with black. They also both have the same very distinct ear tufts and black circles found around yellow eyes. They also have two color morphs called the gray phase and red phase. In the gray phase the facial disks appear to be dusky white with a fine gray-brown mottling. The owls also become predominantly gray brown. In the red phase the owls appears closer to cinnamon in color and its face becomes cinnamon in color too. Eastern and western screech owls are usually told apart by their bill color which is greenish gray for the eastern type and gray to black for the western owls. The two owls also have different calls.

The Screech Owl Nesting Preferences

Both the eastern and western screech owls build their nests almost exclusively in natural or abandoned tree cavities. They both prefer to build their nests on deciduous trees like oaks, maples, and willows. They are however known to also sometimes nest in nest boxes, barns, sheds, and rocky ledges. Screech owl nests are built loosely and scantily made of materials like sticks, leaves, and feathers. The nests are usually found in cavities 6.5 to 20 feet above ground.

Building a Birdhouse For The Screech Owl

The recommended dimensions for eastern or western screech owl next boxes are: 8” x 8” (floor), 15” (distance from floor to ceiling), 3” (entrance hole diameter), 12” (distance from floor to top of entrance hole). The nest boxes should be mounted at about 10 feet above ground or a little higher and should be placed near woodland edges or small tree stands near wetlands. The nest boxes should face south so that the sunlight can pass through the hole in winter. Note that nest boxes of this size are sometimes invaded and used by squirrels.

The Screech Owl Mating Habits

The Eastern screech owl start the courtship ritual by having the male approach a female from a different branch until he gets close enough to bob and swivel his head before bobbing his entire body. The male sometimes even winks one eye at the female who can choose to ignore acknowledge him. If ignored the male will continue bobbing and swiveling until noticed. If the female accepts the male she responds by moving close and letting their bills touch. This signals the start of a lifelong partnership.

Western screech owls call to each other in a duet during courtship while approaching each other. They preen each other’s head and nibble their beaks. When the male changes his call to a rapid tremolo and the female to a short tremolo this signals that they are paired.

The Screech Owl Feeding Preferences

Both screech owls are hunters. They dive on their prey snatching it with their talons and eat it on the spot when small enough. Larger prey gets carried in the bill to a perch before it is devoured. They both eat a wide range of species but favor rodents, deer mice, large insects, and small birds.

Interesting Screech Owl Facts

The eastern and western screech owls though very similar have very different ranges and occur together only in eastern Colorado and South Texas. This means that there is no problem identifying which kind of owl you spot unless you’re in that region.