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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Eastern Screech-Owl -- Otus asio
Western Screech-Owl -- Otus kennicottii
(formerly Screech Owl)

RANGE: Eastern Screech-Owl; Resident from southern Manitoba and northern Minnesota to southwestern Quebec and Maine, south through the eastern United States, eastern Montana, eastern Colorado, and western Oklahoma to southern Texas, and across to southern Florida. Western Screech-Owl; Resident from south-coastal and southeastern Alaska, coastal and southern British Columbia, and northern Idaho to southeastern Colorado and extreme western Oklahoma, south to Mexico and western Texas.

STATUS: Common; populations are declining in the West, but are stable in the East.

HABITAT: Found in a variety of habitats, favors oak and riparian woodlands in the West, and open woodlands adjacent to meadows, marshes, or fields in the East. Also inhabits orchards, shade trees in towns and cities, small woodlots, and deciduous forests. Prefers areas with widely spaced trees interspersed with grassy open spaces for hunting.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Cavities for nesting and roosting in trees with a minimum dbh of 12 inches.

NEST: Nests in natural cavities in trees or in old woodpecker holes, especially those of the northern flicker and pileated woodpecker. Chooses cavities with openings 3 to 5 inches in diameter that are typically 5 to 30 feet (but up to 50 feet) above the ground. Many use same cavity for many years; will use artificial cavities.

FOOD: Hunts for its food in grassy openings, fields, meadows, or along wooded field margins or streams. Primarily takes rodents, especially meadow voles, but also eats insects, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, crayfish, amphibians, reptiles, fishes, and small birds.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Earhart and Johnson 1970, Heintzelman 1979, Johnsgard 1979, Karalus and Eckert 1974, Scott et al. 1977, Tate and Tate 1982, Thomas et al. 1979, Van Camp and Henny 1975.

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