NatureMapping Animal Facts

Western Screech-Owl

distribution map

Western Screech-Owl (Otus kennicottii)
Tecolote occidental - en Espaņol
The scientific name commemorates the American naturalist Robert Kennicott.
Species Code: OTKE

Description: The Western Screech-Owl is 7 - 10 inches in length and has squatty look. It has yellow eyes and may have gray or brown feathers with faint dark streaks on its lower body. Their feathers, like other owls, are soft and fluffy looking. The western screech owl also has ear tufts similar to those of a Great Horned Owl. Because of this similarity, people often mistake screech owls for baby Great Horned Owls. Great Horned Owls, however, do not leave the nest until they are full grown, so this mistake can be easily avoided.

Call: Series of short whistled hoots, more closely spaced at end of series.

Listen to calls of this species »

Western Screech-Owl photo by NP

Range/Habitat: The Western Screech-Owl found across the Western United States and Canada. Screech-Owls can be found in a variety of different habitats including deserts, all types of forests and wooded areas, shrublands, orchards, and suburbs. They are found more frequently found at lower elevations. The Screech-Owls that live at high elevations in the Rocky Mountains are known to fly down into the warmer, more protected valleys during the winter.

Click the map to learn more the distribution of Western Screech-Owls in Washington.

Nesting: Western Screech-Owls usually build their nests in hollow trees or standing snags, often in a natural tree hole or an abandoned woodpecker hole. These nests are typically 6.5 - 20 feet up, but have been found as high as 50 feet above the ground. A female Screech-Owl will lay 3 or 4 eggs in the nest and will incubate them for about 26 days.

Diet: Like other owls, Screech-Owls hunt for food at night, but unlike most owls, they do nearly all of their hunting from the air rather than from a perch. When they locate their prey, they swoop down silently and carry it to a branch. Once there, the screech owl will tear the prey apart before eating it. Screech owls are carnivores, eating rodents such as mice and shrews, birds, and other small animals. They are also invertivores, eating a variety of insects. The diet of the screech owl varies based on the season, which determines what types of prey are available.

Behavior: The Western Screech-Owl is a master of disguise. When one of these small owls is frightened or threatened, it will stretch its body and tighten its feathers, causing it to look like a branch but all but the keenest of predators. This effective form of camouflage explains why these owls are not often seen by people.

Western Screech-Owl Silhouette

Western Screech-Owl Adult (Karen Dvornich)

More Information

Western Screech-Owl - All About Birds
Western Screech-Owl - BirdWeb

Animal silhouettes available to purchase »

Photos: Natures Pics

Home | About Us | How to Participate | Biodiversity Modules | Projects | Maps | News | Resources