We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.
513A Boston Post Road, Rte. 20
Sudbury, MA 01776
Phone: (978) 443-1739
Fax: (978) 443-1430
Email: Send Message
Mon - Sat: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Located between Shaw's Supermarket and Starbucks. Celebrating 27 years in Sudbury!
Have you ever encountered a screech-owl? Eastern and western screech-owls are nearly identical. Until 1983, they were thought to be the same species. DNA tests showed they are not.
Individuals in both species can be gray or red (rufous). Most Eastern Screech-Owls care browner that their western cousins. Western screech-owls range from gray to brown, and, in the Pacific Northwest, even rufous. Red morphs occur throughout the Eastern Screech-Owl’s wide range though less commonly than gray. The gray morphs of both species are practically impossible to distinguish—except for bill color: the Eastern Screech-Owl’s is greenish; the Western’s is pale gray to black.
Bill color, however, is hard to see in the nocturnal bird! Good thin the ranges of the two species don’t overlap much: Western Screech-Owls range west of the diagonal line that extends from southeastern Alaska along the Pacific Coast of British Columbia to the Texas Panhandle and south into Mexico. East of that line is the range of the eastern Screech-Owl, occupying roughly the eastern two-thirds of the United States. Both species can be found in open woodlands, including urban parks and backyards.
The ranges of the two species overlap only in west-central Texas, where hybrids sometimes occur. If you are there, or standing on the line where the two species meet, the best way to distinguish eastern from western screech-owls is by sound.
Eastern screech-owls have a descending whinny that sounds like that of a tiny horse, as well as a long, whistled trill on one pitch. Western screech-owls give an accelerating
series of short whistles, reminiscent of a bouncing ball as it comes to rest, that descends slightly at the end. It also emits a two-note whistled trill. Neither species screeches, but both bark and chuckle.
Screech-owls are very adaptable to human habitats. I have only seen a Screech-Owl twice in my back yard, but have heard them many times: around midnight, and just
before dawn. Each time, their call seems to be coming from the top or a pine tree at the back of my tree line.
Both species are about as tall as a robin, but shaped more like a pint jar—with ear tufts. Regardless of color, screech-owls'
plumage provides effective camouflage. Even when perched on an exposed limb or snag, they can look like a broken branch.
Screech-owls eat a variety of smaller critters: small rodents, moths, earthworms, crayfish, frogs, small fish, and even small songbirds.
If you have a lot of trees in your neighborhood, odds are, you have a screech-owl for a neighbor. Consider installing a suitable nest box in your yard: screech-owls readily inhabit them, especially where natural cavities—holes in big trees—are scarce. Outside of nesting season and especially in winter, an owl might use a nest box as a daytime roosting spot.
We carry a wide variety of nesting boxes at Wild Birds Unlimited year round and early winter is an ideal time to come in to buy a Screech-Owl nesting box. They are designed to the correct dimensions to meet the owl’s nesting and roosting needs perfectly, thus maximizing your chances in attracting one of nature’s gems.