Eastern Screech Owl

(Megascops asio )

Eastern Screech Owl
Eastern Screech Owl

The Eastern Screech Owl is Georgia’s most common owl. They are strictly nocturnal, roosting during the day in cavities or next to tree trunks. They are quite common, and can be found in the Atlanta area year round.

The bill is pale and the eyes are yellow. Adults range from 6.3–10 inches in length and weigh 4.3-8.6 oz. The wingspan can range from 18 to 24 inches. There are two main color patterns of the Eastern Screech Owl. They are red and gray and sometimes referred to as red or gray, morphs or phases. The red phase inhabits the southern parts of their range and these birds are rusty red. The gray phase occurs primarily in the northern portion of their range and are mostly gray. The color on the upper breast (gray or rust) is barred. 8.5in. in length. The coloring and pattern make for excellent camouflage.They have ear tufts which are visible when they are raised, but can be hard to see when flattened. They are flattened during flight giving them a stubby look. The call of this species is also important, because this owl is more often heard than seen. It has a mysterious trill and is often used by the movie industry to evoke a mysterious or spooky mood. Click on image for more information.

The breeding season begins in mid-March, peaks in early-April, and extends until late May.The nest is usually in a naturally occurring cavity or one created by a wood pecker. The nest height is variable from 15-50 feet. They also will use nesting boxes. They do not build nests but lay their eggs directly on the layer of fur and feathers left over from previous meals that lines the bottom of its den. The female lays 2-8 (usually 4-5) eggs however the eggs are laid at the rate of 1 every two days. Incubation starts after the first egg is laid. Incubation lasts for about 27 days. The eggs hatch one at a time not all at the same time. The male feeds the female while she is incubating. He also helps with incubation while the female takes a break. When the young are small the female tears the food up for them. Breeding pairs often return to the same nest year after year.

The diet of these owls include insects, small vertebrates, small mammals, and occasionally birds. This owl hunts from a perch or on the wing, capturing prey when it is seen.

Though not usually seen these owls are frequently heard calling at night, especially during their spring breeding season. Despite their name, this owl doesn’t truly screech.

Nesting box plans can be found by clicking on the following: Nesting box plans.

Fun Facts

Flight feathers are serrated to reduce flight noise.

The adults will sometimes bring a live Blind Snake back to the nest to clean up any uneaten food or insects living in the nest.
This was observed in Texas.

Eastern Screech Owls have been known to dive bomb humans if agitated.