Lakeside Nature Center

Critter Corner - Screech Owl
(Otus asio)


Eastern Screech Owls occur in different colors.  Just as there are palomino, black and chestnut horses, there are gray, brown and red screech owls.  Both male and female owls share these colors.


Screech owls hunt at night using their excellent night vision and hearing.  They stalk along the ground hunting for insects, toads and lizards.  They wade into water to catch fish, crawdads and frogs  They grab large flying insects and bats while in flight.  Their favorite food is mice, but they are not choosy.


Owls do not make a nest.  In April, the mom owl lays four to five eggs in a hole in a tree or in an abandoned building.  She incubates the eggs for three weeks.  The dad owl brings food to her every night.  The owlets leave the nest at 3 1/2 weeks of age but stay with their parents until early fall.





Screech owls thrive in open woodlands next to fields, marshes or meadows.  Loss of this habitat is causing a decline in owl populations.  Moving into harsher habitats, young owls have a hard time surviving.  They starve, get hit by cars or become prey to Great Horned Owls.


Screech owls are small, standing only 10 inches tall and weighing only 7 ounces.  But they fight like wildcats in defense of their nest.  When facing an enemy, a screech owl makes itself seem big by widely opening its yellow eyes, standing as tall as possible, and fluffing out its feathers.  If the enemy does not turn tail and run, the little owl flips onto its back and digs its talons into the enemy's face.


  • Screech owls do not screech.  They have two calls, a whinny and a soft, low trill.

  • The adult owls communicate with each other when they set up their breeding territory and to strengthen their pair bond.

Check out Lakeside Nature Center's Screech Owl.

To learn more about Screech owls

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(Photo credits: Portrait of red-phase Screech Owl, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources;  Gray phase Screech Owl, Missouri Department of Natural Resources; Baby owl from US Fish & Wildlife Service; Screech owl from National Parks Service)

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