Eastern Screech-Owl

Image of eastern screech-owl, gray phase
Scientific Name
Otus asio
Strigidae (typical owls) in the order Strigiformes (owls)

The eastern screech-owl is the only small, yellow-eyed owl with prominent ear tufts in Missouri (though ear tufts may be lowered and concealed from view). There are three color morphs (forms) in our state: gray, brown, and red. Of these, the red is the least common in Missouri. The call is rarely described as a “screech.” Instead, the whistled call is either a quavering, ascending then descending whinny, or a monotone trill, often in a duet with its mate.

Length: 8½ inches (tip of bill to tip of tail). Wingspan: 20-22 inches.
Where To Find
image of Eastern Screech-Owl distribution map
Open woodlands, forests, rural woodlots and city parks and lots, orchards, deep woods. Preferred trees are cedars and pines. Nesting is in tree cavities, and many of these are ones created originally by woodpeckers. Eastern screech-owl populations suffer as dead, hollow trees are removed. Also, pesticides and car collisions cause many deaths.
This smaller owl eats smaller prey—beetles, grasshoppers, moths, mice, shrews, moles, crayfish, fish, frogs and small birds. Like other owls, this species uses its exceptional senses of hearing and sight to home in on its targets.
Common permanent resident.
Life Cycle
Nesting is from March through May in Missouri. Four or five white, roundish eggs are laid, usually in a tree cavity, occasionally in bird houses and rarely in buildings. Incubation lasts 26 days, and the owlets are reared for 28 days. This rather tame owl is active strictly at night.
This owl is surprisingly common near towns, though it is rarely seen. It preys on many small creatures that can cause problems for humans. Owls as a group have been significant in human culture for ages; the Greek goddess Athena was associated with owls, and both symbolized wisdom.
Although it is very similar in habits and hunting strategies to our other owls, this smaller species preys on slightly different animals—insects and small rodents—thus they occupy a unique niche among nighttime predators.
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About Birds in Missouri

About 350 species of birds are likely to be seen in Missouri, though nearly 400 have been recorded within our borders. Most people know a bird when they see one — it has feathers, wings, and a bill. Birds are warm-blooded, and most species can fly. Many migrate hundreds or thousands of miles. Birds lay hard-shelled eggs (often in a nest), and the parents care for the young. Many communicate with songs and calls.