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Eastern Screech Owl

by Jacob Crider

This past weekend at Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, we held our 16th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count. The count was wonderful, and over the weekend we documented 34 bird species including the alluring and pint-sized Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio). Big thanks to Louisville Audubon Society Board members Lee Payne and Brandon McQueen for making this awesome discovery and for taking such magnificent photos!

Eastern Screech Owls are amongst the smallest of Owls in the United States, they are usually around 6-10 inches long and a small wingspan tipping out at around 2 feet. They live here in Kentucky year-round in forested areas and parks, and prefer locations near streams, creeks, and other bodies of water. They nest and roost in the cavities of trees including Sycamores, Maples, and Ash, commonly in cavities excavated by woodpeckers. Screech Owls are nocturnal hunters and feed on a variety of small animals including mice, voles, moles, frogs, and small birds.

In Kentucky, Eastern Screech Owls can be observed exhibiting 3 color morphs: Red, Grey, and Brown. The individual discovered at CMNP is a brown morph which is the most uncommon color found in Screech owls in our area. The brown morph can be distinguished from the grey morph by the rufous brown face and brow feathers rather than grey.

While very secretive, Screech Owls can be seen during morning hours and dusk when they stick their heads out of their arboreal homes to catch some sun to warm up. Screech Owls possess the ability to throw their voice and it can be difficult at times to find where their voice is coming from. Their call sounds like a quiet and haunting whistle with a light trill. Happy Owling!


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