• Barn Owl
    Barn
  • Barred Owl
    Barred
  • Boreal Owl
    Boreal
  • Burrowing Owl
    Burrowing
  • Eastern Screech Owl
    Eastern Screech
  • Elf Owl
    Elf
  • Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
    Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
    Flammulated
  • Great Grey Owl
    Great Grey
  • Great Horned Owl
    Great Horned
  • Long Eared Owl
    Long-Eared
  • Northern Hawk Owl
    Northern Hawk
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
    Northern Pygmy
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
    Northern Saw-whet
  • Short-eared Owl
    Short-Eared
  • Snowy Owl
    Snowy
  • Spotted Owl
    Spotted
  • Western Screech Owl
    Western Screech
  • Western Screech Owl
    Whiskered Screech Owl

WHISKERED SCREECH OWL (Megascops trichopsis)

Whiskered Screech OwlThe Whiskered Screech Owl is the most mysterious of the three Screech Owl species. Found mostly south of the U.S. border, the Whiskered Screech Owl remains elusive.

Very few nests of this species have ever been found. These owls tend to live at high elevations (usually around 5,000 feet) and nest high up in trees. In fact, they spend much of their time hidden in the tree tops, roosting in dense foliage and feeding on flying insects. Their nocturnal hunting habits and high elevation home make them difficult for humans to locate, but just like the other species of Screech Owls, this owl can be identified by its unique voice.

The Whiskered Screech Owl boasts an unusual series of hoots, often described as sounding like Morse code in the way the notes vary in length. This owl can also be heard giving a series of short whistles, all on the same pitch. If the unique call of the Whiskered Screech Owl brings you close enough to catch a glimpse of one, you might notice that it more closely resembles the Western Screech Owl with its dark beak and overall gray coloring, though its bold chest markings are more similar to the Eastern. The Whiskered Screech Owl is the smallest of the three, standing to only about 18 centimeters. Though the three Screech Owl species are very similar, clearly they differ in many ways.

Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

  • A small grayish owl with golden eyes, greenish-yellow beak, and small ear tufts

    Males: usually gray, though sometimes reddish; facial disc light gray with faint rings and whisker-like feathers which cannot be detected in the field

    Females: similar to male

    Young: grey to grayish-brown with faint crossbars on head and body; inconspicuous ear-tufts
  • Height: Males 16-20cm (6.3-7.9 in), Females 16-20cm (6.3-7.9 in)

    Weight: Males 85g (2.9 oz), Females 94g (3.3 oz)

    Wingspan Both: 40-50cm (15.7-19.7 in)

  • Range: southern New Mexico and Arizona, Mexico and Central America?

    Habitat: dense deciduous and mixed forests at high elevations

  • Mostly insects and other arthropods, sometimes small mammals
  • Often described as sounding like Morse code

    Males: a series of about 8 evenly spaced “ook” notes the last dropping in pitch; also 2 short notes, followed by 2-5 longer notes

    Females: higher pitched; often duets with male



  • Nest Site: cavity nester; nests mostly in Flicker holes, high (5.5-7 meters) in deciduous (oak, walnut, juniper, sycamore) trees

    Eggs: 3-4 eggs

    Incubation: unknown
  • Nocturnal; hunts from tree perch; sometimes flutters in tree tops catching flying insects

Whiskered Screech Owl Range Map

Whiskered Screech Owl Range Map

Whiskered Screech Owl Audio

Whiskered Screech Owl Facts

Other Names: Spotted Screech Owl,
Whiskered Owl
Family: Strigidae
Closest Relative: Western Screech Owl, Eastern Screech Owl

Conservation Status

Threatened in New Mexico