Western Screech Owl (Megascops kennicottii)

Western Screech Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Strigidae | [latin] Megascops kennicottii | [authority] Elliot, 1867 | [UK] Western Screech Owl | [FR] Petit duc de Californie | [DE] West-Kreischeule | [ES] Autillo Californiano | [NL] Westelijke Schreeuwuil


Monotypic species


The genus Megascops comprises 22 living species are known at present, but new ones are frequently recognized and unknown ones are still being discovered on a regular basis, especially in the Andes. For most of the 20th century, this genus was merged with the Old World scops-owls in Otus, but nowadays it is again considered separate based on a range of behavioral, biogeographical, morphological and DNA sequence data. Screech-owls are restricted to the Americas. Some species formerly placed with them are nowadays considered more distinct.
As usual for owls, female screech-owls are usually larger and fatter than the males of their species, with owls of both sexes being compact in size, shape, and height. The Eastern Screech-owl Megascops asio is one of the smallest species of owls in North America. All of the birds in this genus are small and agile. Screech-owls are generally colored in various brownish hues with usually a whitish, patterned underside, which helps to camouflage them against the bark of trees. Some are polymorphic, occurring in a grayish- and a reddish-brown morph.

Physical charateristics

Western Screech-Owls are small owls with yellow eyes, dark bills, and ear-tufts that are often but not always raised. They have intricately streaked gray or gray-brown plumage, with owls of the eastern Washington subspecies lighter in color than those of the western. Flammulated Owls are smaller but similar in coloration; they can best be distinguished from Western Screech-Owls by their dark eyes

Listen to the sound of Western Screech Owl

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/STRIGIFORMES/Strigidae/sounds/Western Screech Owl.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 50 cm wingspan max.: 52 cm
size min.: 22 cm size max.: 24 cm
incubation min.: 26 days incubation max.: 29 days
fledging min.: 28 days fledging max.: 30 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America, Middle America : West, South Alaska to South Mexico


Western Screech-Owls are common in open woodlands, forested streamsides, deserts, suburban areas, and parks. They tend to avoid dense forests without openings. Although they occur in a wide variety of habitats, they are most often found in deciduous or mixed forest microhabitats, often along streams. They commonly nest in cottonwood or big-leaf maple


Monogamous pairs form long-term bonds. Western Screech-Owls are secondary cavity nesters, making use of natural cavities, old Pileated Woodpecker or Northern Flicker holes, and nest boxes. They nest at heights from 2 to 10 meter above ground. They do not add material to the nest. Pairs typically hatch one brood per year. The female incubates 3-5 eggs for 33-34 days while the male brings her food. Once the young hatch, the female broods for about three weeks while the male brings food to her and the owlets. The young leave the cavity and venture onto nearby branches 7-10 days later. They stay close to the nest for a few nights while they develop their ability to fly, and they continue to remain near the adults for about five weeks after their first flights.

Feeding habits

Western Screech-Owls feed on arthropods, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and occasionally birds

Video Western Screech Owl


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Western Screech Owl status Least Concern


Mostly resident, in north partial migrant and juveniles may disperse to find territory

Distribution map

Western Screech Owl distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *