Eastern screech owl

Latin Name
Otus asio

Class
Birds

Order
Strigiformes

Description

The eastern screech owl's white, grey and reddish-brown coloration helps it blend in with branches and trees. This camouflage helps it surprise prey it spots with its large, yellow eyes. The predator can reach up to nine inches tall, with a wingspan of nearly two feet. Females are slightly larger than males.


 

Range

East of the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico


Status

Common


Habitat

Forests, plains, farms and cities


Niche

The eastern screech owl preys on a wide variety of insects and small animals, including mice, snakes, lizards, salamanders and small birds. The nocturnal predator uses its sharp eyesight and well-developed sense of hearing to locate prey at night. The eastern screech owl is also vulnerable to predation itself, mainly from hawks and larger owls.


Life History

The eastern screech owl lays its eggs in tree cavities, hollows and even abandoned woodpecker holes. The bird doesn't actually build a nest; instead, females lay their eggs directly on the layer of fur and feathers left over from previous meals that lines the bottom of its den. Breeding pairs often return to the same nest year after year.


Special Adaptations
  • The species' strong talons and sharp beak enable it to firmly grasp and tear the mammals and small birds it catches.
  • The feathers the eastern screech owl uses to fly are serrated at their tips. This muffles the noise the bird makes when it flaps its wings, enabling it to sneak up on prey quietly.
  • The eastern screech owl's large eyes help them spot prey, even at night. The predator's eyes are so large that they can't move in their sockets; the owl has to shift its neck, which can move up to 270 degrees, to get a different view of prey.
  • The eastern screech owl's sense of hearing is so acute that it can even locate mammals under heavy vegetation or snow. The bird's ears are placed asymmetrically on its head, enabling it to use the differences between each ear's perception of sound to home in on prey.


Lincoln Park Zoo Exhibit