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Western Screech-Owl

ID Info
Silhouette OwlsOwls
Western Screech-OwlMegascops kennicottii
  • ORDER: Strigiformes
  • FAMILY: Strigidae

Basic Description

A short series of high toots accelerating through the night announces the presence of a Western Screech-Owl. These compact owls—not much taller than a standard pair of binoculars—hunt in woods and deserts of western North America, where their wide-ranging diet includes everything from worms and crayfish to rats and bats. Found in urban parks and residential areas as well as wilder places, Western Screech-Owls nest in tree cavities, and will readily take to backyard nest boxes.

More ID Info
image of range map for Western Screech-Owl
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

The best way to encounter a Western Screech-Owl is to use your ears. Listen at night for a string of hollow, high tooting notes with the rhythm of a bouncing ball. They may occur in or near towns, and they are vocal for much of the year, not just the spring and summer. During daytime they are hard to spot, but they may become the targets of small songbirds that form mobbing groups to get the owl to move away. If you hear a commotion made by chickadees, nuthatches, and other small birds, it’s worth taking a careful look for an owl or hawk hidden nearby.

Other Names

  • Autillo Californiano (Spanish)
  • Petit-duc des montagnes (French)

Backyard Tips

Try attracting a breeding pair of screech-owls by putting up a nest box. Make sure the box is in place well before breeding season; attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

  • Cool Facts