This is the species that gave the Screech Owls their name. Not only do Eastern Screech Owls screech, they also bark, hoot, rasp, chuckle, and whinny. Their quavering, low-pitched trill has been described as “haunting” and is often used to “set the mood” in television and movie night scenes. Once thought to be one in the same, the differing voices of the Eastern and Western Screech Owls is one reason scientists now classify them as two distinct species. Look closely and you will also notice subtle differences in the appearance of these two owls. Eastern Screech Owls have prominant dark brown vertical and horizontal markings on their chest and belly. Western Screech Owls have these markings, but in a more subtle way. The beak of the Eastern Screech is a pale greenish- yellow, while the Western Screech Owls bill is dark gray. Though the two owls’ range may overlap slightly, the Rocky Mountains seem to be the dividing line that separates them. Eastern Screech Owls live in a variety of habitats in the east, and eat a variety of foods; in fact their diet is the most varied of any North American owl. These owls will prey on most anything that runs, flies, wriggles, or swims, including earthworms, crayfish, insects, birds, and mice. As you can see, the Eastern Screech Owl is one unique bird!
Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.