Fun Screech Owl Facts For Kids

Aashita Dhingra
Nov 19, 2022 By Aashita Dhingra
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Kidadl Team
Screech owl facts for kids such as eastern screech owls have rufous and gray morphs, as well as brownish feathers in between, are interesting.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.8 Min

True owls belong to the order Strigiformes family Strigidae. There are 25 species of screech owls belonging to the genus Megascops and all are known for their shrill calls and screech owl screams. Most screech owls have a round face, a facial disc that surrounding the eyes, and ear tufts.

Eastern screech owls (Megascops asio) occupy the range from boreal forests of Canada to the Rocky Mountains in North America, and to northern Mexico. These small owls are found in two types of colors depending on their habitats. Rufous owls live in the south mostly on pine trees and the gray varieties live on oak trees in the north.

Western screech owls (Megascops kennicottii) are also small owls inhabiting North America and Central America. These nocturnal owls are closely related to the eastern screech owls. They have a thickset body, square head, and short ear tufts like their eastern cousins. These birds have gray or brown feathers and faint black and white streaks on the underbelly. They do not have a rufous morph like their eastern cousins but only a gray morph. The beak is dark-colored. They roost on a variety of wooded habitats.

You can also check out our other fact files on the owl and the great horned owl from Kidadl.

Screech Owl Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a screech owl?

Screech owls are nocturnal birds. These robin-sized birds lead a solitary life and are not seen regularly. Their ranges differ depending on the species but are mostly found in Canada, North America, and South America.

What class of animal does a screech owl belong to?

Screech owls belong to the class Aves, meaning they are birds. These birds are most active at night and hunt at dusk till dawn.

How many screech owls are there in the world?

Some studies say there is a 900,000 global breeding screeching owl population.

Where does a screech owl live?

They are common in their range and are found in varied terrains. They are seen from southeastern Alaska coastal forests to semiarid-cactus groves in the Arizona desert. You can see them in suburban parks and gardens too.

Screech owls may live in shady trees in the suburbs and in backyard trees without even people being aware of their presence. They roost in holes during the day and become active in the dark.

The natural range of eastern screech owls and western screech owls overlap in eastern Colorado, southwest Kansas, and Texas.  Both species are found at the Big Bend National Park, Texas.

These owls are seldom seen as they move out of their nesting cavities only after dark. The frequency and time of hunting depends on the season, weather, and availability of prey. Usually, the males start hunting earlier than the females.

What is a screech owl's habitat?

The screech owl habitat includes coastal forests, mountains, and semi-deserts depending on the species. Screech owls are adaptive birds and can be found in woodlands, urban parks, farm groves, isolated shady trees, and suburban yards. These birds can be found anywhere they can find suitable nesting holes like natural tree cavities and nest boxes of proper sizes.

In some wooded suburbs, screech owls are the most common nocturnal avian predators. They may hunt insects, rodents, and small birds like songbirds.

An eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) does not build a nest. The female lays eggs on debris like woodchips, feathers, twigs, and droppings, accumulated at the bottom of her nesting cavity. She creates a body-shaped depression during the breeding season and lays the eggs.

Western screech owls build nests that have a narrow entrance to protect the eggs and young birds from predators.

Who do screech owls live with?

Screech owls live a solitary life except for the breeding season. Pairs sometimes roost together in winter inside hollow trees, nest boxes, and tree cavities. Screech owls are sedentary and remain within their range throughout the year.

How long does a screech owl live?

In their wild, natural habitats, western screech owls live from one to eight years. In captivity, their average lifespan is 13 years. The longest living western screech owl lived for 19 years.

Eastern screech owls also have a similar lifespan as their western cousins.

How do they reproduce?

Courtship displays are common during the breeding season. The male bows, raises its wings, brings food, and clicks the bill to impress a female. Pairs call or sing in duet. The nest site is usually in a tree cavity. Two to five white eggs are laid and the incubation period averages 26 days.

Males bring food to the females while they incubate the eggs. Both adult parents take care of the young birds.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of screech owls is of the Least Concern.

Screech Owl Fun Facts

What do screech owls look like?

Male and female eastern screech owls look similar without any distinct sexual dimorphism. These small birds are about 8 in (20.3 cm) tall, with yellow eyes. Like others of their species, eastern screech owls have ear tufts. Their breast and belly have black streaks and spots. They have a light-colored bill.

Eastern screech owls have yellow eyes.

How cute are they?

Screech owls look cute with their round face and ear tufts.

How do they communicate?

Western screech owl sounds are mostly short, close-spaced, whistling hoots.  The screech owl sound is more whiny and soft trills. A screech owl call for territorial defense is a descending and quavering sound.

Males often make this sound during the breeding season. There are different calls while looking for a nest site, courting, and reaching the nest with food. Both males and females sing songs in different pitches. Juveniles ask for food with a rough voice.

How big is a screech owl?

The Blakiston fish owl, the biggest owl in the world, is about 28 in (71.1 cm) long. Compared to them, the average screech owl is almost four times smaller.

How fast can a screech owl fly?

The flying speed of screech owls is not recorded.

How much does a screech owl weigh?

A screech owl weighs around 0.35 lb (158.8 g) and screech owl size is similar to robins. They are small nocturnal birds.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Males and females are called hen cocks and hens like most birds.

What would you call a baby screech owl?

A baby screech owl is called an owlet.

What do they eat?

The screech owl diet includes various things. They prey on insects like moths, cricket, earthworms, and small birds from the ground and air. They locate their food by sight and sound. These birds forage for food after dark. They sometimes drink water too.

Are they dangerous?

Screech owls are not dangerous.

Would they make a good pet?

Screech owls are wild birds and cannot be kept inside homes as pets. However, a good way to befriend a screech owl is by providing it a screech owl house. These nocturnal birds have adaptive nesting behavior. A screech owl nest box installed in a shady tree in the backyard can attract these birds. The screech owl box should be positioned properly in a hidden spot. Nest boxes should be installed well before the breeding season. To save the eggs and the young from predators, a guard can be attached to nest boxes.

What are the different types of screech owls?

There are almost twenty-five species of screech owls such as whiskered screech owls, eastern screech owls, western screech owls, foothill screech owls, long-tufted screech owls, northern screen owls, bare-shanked screech owls, white-throated screech owls, and tropical screech owls.

Did you know...

The Puerto Rican owl locally known as múcaro was earlier known as the Puerto Rican screech owl.

Eastern screech owls are also known by other names like ghost owl, common screech owl, little gray owl, spirit owl, and Texas screech-owl.

Easter screech owls are found in populated urban areas like New York but city living poses dangers like poisoning, fast vehicles, predation by raccoons, and opossums.

Do screech owls eat bats?

Screech owls can kill and eat bats. While hunting, these owls swoop down from the trees and grab their prey. They do not hover while hunting and directly attack the prey. Screech owls also store their uneaten prey in tree cavities.

What kind of noise does a screech owl make?

Screech owls do not screech, even though their shrill voice sounds like screeching. Eastern screech owls and others of this species have different calls like soft and low hoots, loud barking calls, and shrill whining like horses. Different calls indicate different things like alarm and agitation. The screeches are mostly for defending nests or the young ones at night.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these secretary bird facts and burrowing owl facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our owl coloring pages.

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Written by Aashita Dhingra

Bachelors in Business Administration

Aashita Dhingra picture

Aashita DhingraBachelors in Business Administration

Based in Lucknow, India, Aashita is a skilled content creator with experience crafting study guides for high school-aged kids. Her education includes a degree in Business Administration from St. Mary's Convent Inter College, which she leverages to bring a unique perspective to her work. Aashita's passion for writing and education is evident in her ability to craft engaging content.

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