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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 8:28 EDT

Eastern Screech Owl

The Eastern Screech Owl (Otus asio) is a small owl which has either rusty or dark grey intricately patterned plumage with streaking on the underparts. Small and stocky, short-tailed and broad-winged, they have a large round head with ear tufts, yellow eyes and a yellowish bill. Rusty birds are more common in the southern parts of the range; pairings of the two color variants do occur. A pale grey variation also exists in western Canada and the north-central United States.

Their breeding habitat is either deciduous or mixed woods in eastern North America. Usually solitary, they nest in a tree cavity, either natural or excavated by a woodpecker; they will also use nesting boxes. They are strictly nocturnal, roosting during the day in cavities or next to tree trunks.

These birds wait on a perch on low limbs in open woods and along forest edges and swoop down on prey; they may also catch insects in flight. They mainly eat large insects and small rodents, and sometimes small birds. They are active at night or near dusk, using their excellent hearing and night vision to locate prey.

The call is a descending series of whistles or a long single trill.

They are usually permanent residents; birds at the northern parts of the range may change location.

Eastern Screech Owl