Western Screech-OwlMegascops kennicottii

adult, Interior Southwest
Sam Fried/VIREO
adult, brown  morph, Pacific Northwest
Joe Fuhrman/VIREO
adult, gray morph, Southern coastal
Brian E. Small/VIREO
adult, Interior Southwest
Dale & Marian Zimmerman/VIREO
juvenile, Interior Southwest
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
Western Screech-Owl



7-10" (18-25 cm). A small, mottled gray owl with ear tufts. Eastern Screech-Owl of East overlaps with Western in small part of western Texas; gray phase of Eastern almost identical to Western but has different call: a tremulous descending wail. See also Whiskered Screech-Owl.


An accelerating "bouncing ball" series of 6-8 low whistles, often dropping in pitch toward the end. Also a quick series on 1 pitch.


song #3
songs of pair
song #2
song #1 AZ (kc)


Woodlands, orchards, yards with many trees.


Resident from southeastern Alaska and British Columbia southward into Mexico and east throughout U.S. Rockies.


This common owl incubates each egg as it is laid. Thus the eggs hatch in sequence and the young within a brood vary widely in size and age. This allows the parents to raise all their young if food is plentiful, or only the first few if food is scarce. This pattern is widespread among owls and birds of prey that feed on mice and meadow moles, whose populations fluctuate widely.


4 or 5 white eggs in a natural cavity, a woodpecker's hole, or even a man-made 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, gray morph

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.

adult, red morph

Flammulated Owl

6-7" (15-18 cm).


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.


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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