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Western Screech Owl
By Ann McDermott

screech owl
Photo by Earle Robinson

This wild neighbor is one of my favorites, willing to live in close proximity to humans and happy to nest in man-made boxes as substitutes for tree or saguaro cavities. During the hottest parts of high temperature days, they hang out in my courtyard, hiding in niches in the oleander and soaking their feet in the bird bath to cool off. They will often humor me with an answer when I give my poor imitation of their bouncing ball call.

Description: Adults are around eight or nine inches tall, eared when they want to be, short bodied, with long wings. They are cryptically plumaged: gray, marked with many black and white streaks. The shoulder feathers are white-tipped and form a white V when the owl is viewed from behind. The bill is black with a light, whitish tip. The feet and legs are covered with short, light gray feathers.

Habitat: These guys live in just about any sort of woodland, ranging from desert to mountain, but tend to avoid thick, high elevation forests.

Range: They can be found throughout the state, but fewer live in the northern half, fewest in the northeastern part. They are homebodies and do not migrate. Outside Arizona, they can be found from coastal southern Alaska and western Canada through the western United States, south to central Mexico. Some Western Screech Owls of the northwest coastal areas are more brown than gray.

Habits: Western Screech Owls are nocturnal and seldom show ear-tufts when active. The male courts the female by bringing her food and then bobbing and snapping his bill. They are cavity nesters, so their eggs need no camouflage. The eggs are white, usually number between three and five, and are just over an inch long. Eggs are incubated 26 days and young are nestlings 28 days. Fledglings remain with their parents another five weeks before departing the family unit. Once paired, couples often live together yearround. Food items are mostly rodents: pocket gophers, white-throated wood rats, Ordıs and Merriamıs kangaroo rats, cactus mice, desert pocket mice and grasshopper mice. They also take small birds, lizards and assorted insects.

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