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Western Screech-Owl – Megascops (Otus) kennicottii
Western Screech-Owl is a common owl in the western USA. It is a nocturnal owl species. Separation in the field, of our Screech-Owl species, is actually only reliably feasible by voice. The Western Screech-Owl can be distinguished with his primary “bouncing-ball” (territorial) call. Male and female owls can be distinguished by their call since the female’s voice is higher in pitch.
The sexes are alike in appearance although the female is larger. This can be difficult to see in the field and their call remains the simplest method to distinguish the sexes. The ear tufts may or may not be visible in the field. Color varies but most commonly they are gray to brownish (rare reddish forms are found in coastal British Columbia/Alaska and north-west Mexico). The bill usually has a dark grayish to black base (sometimes even greenish in northwestern great plains) and a yellow to horn colored tip. The eyes (iris) are yellow. The different races vary quite a bit in color and specific markings.
Size and Age
Length is 8 1/2″ (about the size of a Red-winged Blackbird). The average lifespan of a Western Screech-Owl is probably fairly short. The average re-encounter age for banded owls is about two years. A couple very old banding records from the 1920’s re-encountered Western Screech-Owls 13 years apart and there are only a little more than half a dozen other banding records where this species has reached more than 7 years of age.