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Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern screech owl(Megascops asio)

What is the life span of an Eastern screech owl?
Wild: Oldest recorded wild Eastern screech owl is about 14 years old.
Captive: Have lived past 20 years.

How old is Warner's Eastern screech owl?
Our Eastern screech owl is an adult. It is impossible to determine his age. He has been in captivity since January of 2009 at which time he already exhibited adult plumage.

How long does it take to get adult plumage?
The screech owls will have their adult plumage after one year of life.

How much does Warner's Eastern screech owl weigh?
Our Eastern screech owl weighs around 155 grams, which is equivalent to ½ a can of soda.

Why are they called screech owls?
The eastern screech owl has several vocalizations that may lead to this common name. The most common sound is a trill (or screech) that sounds ghostly.

What is his name?
He may have a name, but he hasn't told us yet. Our owl is not a pet; he is a captive wild animal. We have not named him as a reminder that he is not a domesticated animal.

Why do we have him?
The owl ran into a window of an elementary school in Faribault, MN. He was sent to the raptor center to recover. Unfortunately, as a result of the accident, he is blind in his right eye and cannot be released to the wild, as he would have impaired hunting ability.

How do we know he is really a "he"?
In many songbirds the male and female look very different. The males are generally more brightly colored to attract a mate and females are generally more camouflaged so as not to give away the location of their nest to predators. In owls we do not see this variation. Male and female owls look essentially the same. The main way to tell them apart is by size. In general, females are larger. Based on the size of the adult Eastern screech owl in our care we feel he is a male.

Why is he gray and not red?
Eastern screech owls have two color morphs, red and gray. There are also intermediate morphs, which tend to be dark brown. Both colors allow for easy camouflaging. In general the red phase owls tend to be found in the south and gray in north and west. The red phase do poorly in colder temps. A mated pair of different morphs red and gray morphs can have mixed clutches. The color morph gives no indication of sex of the bird.

How many Eastern screech owls are there in Minnesota?
This is a common question but very hard to answer. We have been unable to locate good data on this number.

How many types of owls are there in Minnesota?
Twelve. The Barn owl is considered uncommon in Minnesota. The Boreal, Great gray, Northern hawk, and Snowy owls are usually only seen in northern MN and only in winter. The Barred, Burrowing, Saw-whet, Eastern screech, Short-eared, and Long-eared are all found in different parts of MN throughout the year. The Great horned owl is the only owl found statewide.

How many types of owls are there in the world?
There are around 162 species of owls in the world.

What is the wingspan of an Eastern screech owl?
About 22 inches (a bit less than 2 feet)

What is the biggest owl?
In Minnesota: Great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) 25 inches long, wingspan of about 5 feet, and weigh about 1814 grams
In the world: The Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo) 28 inches long, wingspan of about 5.2 feet, and weigh up to 3175 grams

What is the smallest owl?
In Minnesota: The Northern Saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus) is the smallest owl in Minnesota at a height of just 7.5 inches and weighing approximately 104 grams.
In the world: The elf owl (Micrathene whitneyi) found in the American southwest. It is about 6.1 inches long, has a wingspan of 15 inches, and weighs about 43 grams.

What do Eastern screech owls eat?
Eastern screech owls have a varied diet. They eat many small mammals, especially rodents such as mice and voles. They eat a variety of insects, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, and birds including ruffed grouse. They will occasionally eat insects, as well as birds stopping off at your bird feeder.

Do Eastern screech owls migrate?
Eastern screech owls are territorial and non-migratory.

How big is an Eastern screech owl's territory?
213-903 acres. There are 640 acres in a square mile so a bared owl's territory can be anywhere from 1/3 to 1 1/2 square miles.

Do Eastern screech owls mate for life?
Eastern screech owls form permanent pair bonds. Courtship begins in winter near the eventual nesting site.

Do Eastern screech owls reuse nests?
Eastern screech owls are non-migratory and territorial and will often use the same nest site in consecutive years.

When do Eastern screech owls lay eggs?
Eastern screech owls like to get a jump on other species by nesting early. They lay 3 to 5 eggs in March or April.

How many young do Eastern screech owls have?
Eastern screech owls lay 3 to 5 eggs in March or April. The eggs are brooded by the female and hatch about 4 weeks later.

When do the young leave the nest?
Eastern screech owls leave the nest or "fledge" eight to ten weeks after they hatch. As they are unable to fly at this point, this stage is often called "branching." The owls move out onto nearby branches.

How good is an Eastern screech owl's vision?
Eastern screech owls have very good eyesight, which aids them in hunting. Their eyes are also tubular rather than round to facilitate better distance vision. Unlike many birds with eyes on the sides of their heads, the predator owls have both eyes on the front of their heads for true binocular vision. Eastern screech owls use their sight more than hearing to hunt as their ears are symmetrical; many other owls have asymmetrical ears and triangulate sounds to locate their prey.

Can an owl turn its head all the way around?
Owls cannot turn their heads all the way around. They can, however, turn their heads an impressive three quarters of the way around. This, combined with very rapid head movement sometimes gives the illusion they have turned their heads all the way around. They turn their heads because there is no room in their heads for eye muscles and must move their heads to change their field of view. They are able to accomplish such head movement due to an "extra" vertebra in their necks.

What is an owl pellet?
When an owl eats it eats all of an animal, and this includes indigestible parts such as bones and fur. These items are regurgitated or cast up as a pellet. Pellets can be found in the forest and dissected to determine what was eaten.

How do Eastern screech owls hunt?
Eastern Screech owls hunt in a sit- and-wait fashion, using short flights to capture prey (Marshall 1967, Gehlbach 1994). It has also been suggested that Eastern Screech-owls may rely primarily on sight when searching for prey because they have symmetrical ear openings (Marshall 1967, Norberg 1987).

The information above is common scientific knowledge. For a list of specific resources, visit the Animal FAQ Resources page.

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