Eastern Screech-OwlMegascops asio

adult, gray morph
Brian Henry/VIREO
Sam Fried/VIREO
adult, brown morph
James R. Woodward/VIREO
adult, gray morph peering from nest cavity
Warren Greene/VIREO
adult, brown morph
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
adults, gray and red morphs
Rob & Ann Simpson/VIREO
Eastern Screech-Owl



10" (25 cm). A small, mottled owl with prominent ear tufts; yellow eyes. Both rufous and gray color phases occur, as well as brownish intermediates.


A tremulous, descending wail; soft purrs and trills.


whinny & trill
squeals & bill snaps (interaction)
whinnies & trills (with pauraques)
monotonic trill


Open deciduous woods, woodlots, suburban areas, lakeshores, old orchards.


Resident from Canada's southern prairie provinces east to southern Maine, and south to Gulf of Mexico and Florida.


These common owls are fearless in defense of their nests and will often strike unsuspecting humans on the head as they pass nearby at night. When discovered during the day, they often freeze in an upright position, depending on their cryptic coloration to escape detection. The two color phases, which vary in their relative numbers according to geography, are not based on age, sex, or season.


3-8 white eggs placed without a nest lining in a cavity in a tree or in a nest box.

Similar Species

adult, Pacific

Northern Pygmy-Owl

7-7 1/2" (18-19 cm). A sparrow-sized owl. Small round head and long, finely barred tail that is often cocked at an angle.

adult, red morph

Flammulated Owl

6-7" (15-18 cm).

adult, Interior Southwest

Western Screech-Owl

7-10" (18-25 cm). A small, mottled gray owl with ear tufts.


Whiskered Screech-Owl

6 1/2-8" (17-20 cm). Almost identical to Western Screech-Owl, but with longer bristles at base of bill, larger white spots on upperparts, and heavier streaking on breast. Best identified by voice.


Northern Saw-whet Owl

7" (18 cm). A very small, earless, yellow-eyed owl; brown above, with white streaks on forehead, dark bill, and short tail.


Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

6 1/2-7" (17-18 cm). Resembles Northern Pygmy-Owl, but more rust-colored, with rusty, faintly cross-barred tail and streaked flanks. Crown streaked with white, underparts streaked with red-brown.


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