Western screech owls are tiny owls, averaging just 5 ounces. Despite their name, they rarely make a screeching sound, unlike their close relatives the Eastern screech owls. They have ear tufts, though not nearly as prominent as great horned owls, and bright yellow eyes.
They are found from central Mexico all the way up to southern Alaska.
Western Screech Owls in this ecosystem
Western screech owls are fairly rare in Yellowstone National Park, according to the Yellowstone Bird Checklist.
You are most likely to find one through its distinctive “bouncing pingpong ball” call (see the Sounds section of this page), which sounds like a series of short high-pitched hoots getting closer and closer together. They stay well-hidden during the day and their camouflage and small size make them hard to spot even when they are close by.
They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and can’t be kept as pets without special permits.
In the wild, western screech owls are opportunistic predators, eating mice, shrews, bats, flying insects, slugs, snails, earthworms, and trout. These little birds have even been known to hunt ducks and rabbits.
Here, we feed a variety of appropriate small rodents, mostly mice.
BEHAVIOR & Lifespan
Western screech owls nest in cavities, but don’t actually construct a nest. They lay their eggs on whatever materials were already in the hole, which is often a hole opened up by woodpeckers.
In the wild, western screech owls have a life expectancy of around 8 years; in captivity they can live up to 19 years.