Eastern Screech-Owl Biology

A Reference for North and Central American Owls

Name: Eastern Screech-Owl - Megascops (Otus) asio
Other Common Names: Common Screech-Owl; little owl; shivering owl; Southern Screech-Owl; Florida Screech-Owl (floridanus); Hasbrouck’s Screech-Owl (hasbroucki); Rocky Mountain Screech-Owl (maxwelliae); Texas Screech-Owl (mccallii).

Subspecies: Somewhere between 5 and 9 races (subspecies) of the Eastern Screech-Owl are defined and accepted. We define 6 of these races in following with that which is most commonly accepted. The Eastern Screech-Owl generally increase in size from south to north and color intensity from west to east
M. a. maxwelliae is found west of the Great Lakes in South-Central Canada and the North-Central US. South to N.E. Colorado and N.W. Kansas.
M. a. hasbroucki is found from C. Kansas south to Oklahoma and Texas.
M. a. mccallii is found from S. Texas to the southern border of Tamaulipas, Mexico.
M. k. floridanus is found in Florida and west along the Gulf coast to Louisiana.
M. a. asio is found in South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and Oklahoma.
M. a. naevius is found in S. E Canada and N.E. US.  (sometimes combined with M. a. asio).

Measurements and Weights:
Wingspan: 18 – 22 in.
Length: 6 – 10 in.
Weight: Male: 5.6 - 5.9 oz.
Weight: Female: 5.8 - 6.25 oz.

  • Eastern Screech-Owl camouflaged against tree
  • Red Morph Eastern Screech-Owl
  • Brown morph Eastern Screech-Owl
  • Eastern Screech-Owl eating gecko

Description: The Eastern Screech has three color morphs, red, brown, and gray. Red color morphs are more common in the south and the gray color morphs are more common in the north. The brown color morph is an in-between color form that is much less common than the other two color morphs. These color forms are more of “a percentage” in that both red and gray color morphs are found throughout most of their range.
A small owl, the Eastern Screech-Owl varies significantly in size. The smallest race (subspecies) is the mccallii from S. Texas and N.E. Mexico. This is also the only race that has only one color morph, gray. The largest race is the naevius from the N.E. US and S.E. Canada. In aggregate, the Eastern Screech-Owls become larger as you go north in their range and the percentage of red color morphs become more prevalent as you head east in their range.
In appearance, the sexes of the Eastern Screech-Owls are the same. Separation between Eastern and Western Screech-Owls can only be done reliably by sound. It was not until 1983 these two species were formally split. The Eastern Screech-Owl has a little longer ear tufts and bill. The bill is never black and more of a greenish-olive color. In general, it is slightly more vivid in plumage than its western counterpart, has a more prominent blackish rim to its facial disk, and its underparts are slightly less coarsely patterned.

Young: Initial white down is replaced with grayish or slightly rufous juvenal plumage with darker colored underside barring.