Fun Facts About the Eastern Screech Owl

by Jo Carol Hebert


This odd word may remind you of an unpleasant sound.

“The tire brakes screeched as the speeding car came to a sudden stop.”

“The students cringed when the teacher’s fingernails made a screeching sound on the chalkboard.”

“The shrill screech of the toddler could be heard throughout the grocery store.”

The “Screechy” Screech Owl

These little owls screech for a reason. This high-pitched, 2-second cry of alarm warns intruders in their territory that they are getting too near the ‘clutch of eggs in the nest.  

When fearful, they make other defensive sounds – a loud sharp barking sounds or a 3-4 note ‘chuckle’ or rattle, or ‘clacking’ sounds made by snapping their beaks together.  

They will attack. Captured birds may hiss.

Owl Love Songs

Soft, low, contented hoots within the family show affection. The most common song among them is an is even-pitched ‘tremolo’, called a ‘bounce song’, which is used when the male and female (who mate for life) greet each other. It lasts 3-6 seconds. This trill is also used by the parent owls to encourage their brood to leave the nest to fly. 

Where Are They?

These cute birds are the most common of owls. The versatile range of the Eastern Screech Owl spans through Eastern North America, from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic coast; in Florida and South Texas to the South and as far as Southern Canada. 

Happy in bird boxes, tree holes, or used nests, they thrive in a variety of habitats from urban (city) trees to wooded rural (country) forests.

What Do They Look Like?

Only 6-9 inches long, and 6 ounces weight, they look like a little ’beanie baby” in gray or ‘rusty red’ colors. Camouflage (blending into their habitat) is their best defense. They ‘disappear’ into the gray streaked bark of tree limbs. 

Huge claws verify their hunting skills. Feathered ‘ear tufts’ make them look larger to predators. Big yellow eyes watch every movement around them as they perch patiently on a tree branch near their nest and wait for prey to venture by.

Dinner is Served

Active in the evening, they relish insects, moths, katydids, earthworms, small amphibians (frogs), reptiles (lizards), and mice. They will cache or store up some of the food pieces to eat or give to their little nestlings later. The Screech Owl is also potential dinner for other, larger owls, and large predatory birds, like the hawk. They must be constantly on the alert for ‘rat snakes’, the Virginia Opossum, and raccoons.

Did You Know?

  • The Eastern Screech Owl will bring live ‘Blind Snakes’ into the nest to eat the infestations like flies, lice, ants, and insects.
  • Helpful ants, called ‘Acrobat Ants’, inhabit the ‘nest cavity’. They repel intruders by spraying secretions (body liquids), and biting intruders.
  • Their eating habits are good for the ecosystem.
  • Without owls, mice would rule the world.
  • There is a Western Screech Owl.

Give a Hoot

There are 225 species of owls in the world. From the smallest ‘Elf Owl’, the size of a sparrow, to the massive Great Gray Owl with a wingspan of 5-feet, owls are a vital part of our ecosystem. They eat a lot of rodents. Like all animals, owls are declining due to the 2Hs that cause extinction – Hunting and Habitat Loss. 

Here is a sampling of owl numbers:  

  • Eastern Screech Owl – 680,000
  • Elf Owl: 40,000 in Southwest US and Mexico
  • Great Grey Owl: North America, Alaska and Canada – 95,000
  • Snowy White Arctic Owl, far North Tundra – 30,000

Creatures great and small, let’s save ‘em all! What other kind of Owl would you like to know about? We’re here to make Facts Fun for YOU!  

Comment in the Suggestion Box Category of Big Brilliant Ideas.

Don’t be afraid! Take the Eastern Screech Owl Post Quiz (answers found in the post).

Eastern Screech Owl Post True/False Quiz

Categories: Beaks & Bills

1 reply

  1. The graphics on this ‘fact’ piece are great. The audio is a real plus. Loved the owl/tree ‘camo’ picture, showing how much owls blend into their habitat. Also, habitat map was very informative. My favorite was the close-up that shows those great eyes. Interactive True/False test was a fun challenge. Thanks for a great presentation. I LOVE owls.


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