Spotted: Eastern Screech Owl

Picture taken by Charlie Harcourt in Poultney, VT
Recently spotted in Poultney, a nicely matched pair of Eastern Screech Owls. When hatched, these owls are covered in white down, but the adults come in several different color morphs: red, grey and brown. We always enjoy when nature provides such a convenient visual/ educational aid! Eastern screech owls are common east of the Rockies. The red color morph is common in the eastern part of its range, but becomes much less common as you travel west into the great plains and towards the Rocky Mountains. In south Texas, the red color morph is almost unknown.

Eastern screech owls can be found anywhere where there is ample tree cover, allowing them to shelter in tree cavities since they do not build their own nest. Their sounds are distinctive- often a monotone trill or whinny. Screech owls are masters of disguise, and is us usually easier to hear than to see them  Listen to some of their calls here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern_Screech-Owl/id

This is the time of year when owls of all species are becoming more active and sightings (and hearings!) more common. February and March begins the breeding season for many owls including the barred owl and the eastern screech owl. They have an elaborate courtship ritual involving lots of bobbing and hooting. This species is usually monogamous, though as in life, there are always exceptions! Barred owl courtship begins a bit earlier, in February.  Calls often become more frequent during this time, as they expand their repertoire with various cackles & hoots. Courting owls will also engage in “duets” back and forth.


I have never heard a screech owl near my house in central Vermont, but a barred owl lives nearby, and I have recently heard her (or him) after several months of winter silence. Since I have not heard owl calls of any kind in several weeks, I’m not sure if this indicates romantic success or failure for my neighbor. 

More proof that screech owls are masters of disguise: 


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