A screech owl is nothing to hoot about

Discovery Place Nature

Exhibitions Creature Cavern Owl

If you’ve ever been walking through the forest and spotted what looks to be a baby owl, it is highly possible you caught sight of the sometimes-elusive Eastern screech owl. Their traditionally small size often leads people to assume they are young babies.

But being small doesn’t mean they are immature. In fact, Discovery Place Nature’s resident Eastern screech owl, Screechy, is around 17 years old. (The average lifespan for an Eastern screech owl is about 14 years, by the way!)

Screechy arrived at the Museum in 2002 after a wildlife rehabilitator deemed her non-releasable following a car strike. She is an animal ambassador for her feathered family. Her species is scarcely larger than a dove and can be found in two distinct colorations – a gray phase and a red (or rufus) phase.

Screechy is a rufus Eastern screech owl. Like all screech owls, her vocal range is mostly clicking and whirring noises that are soft and low-pitched. Screech owls do have a louder, sharp call used most often in territorial disputes with other screech owls. But unlike other owl species, the screech owl does not have a hooting noise in its repertoire.

They, like their owl peers, have unusually large eyes, which allow them to absorb more light in their retinas and see more detail in low light. With two ear-like feathery projections on either side of their faces, they resemble their cousins, the great horned owls, but in a much smaller form.

Screech owls use their miniature talons and beaks as tools to hunt their prey, typically small rodents. They also snack on frogs, snakes and larger insects like grasshoppers. Since they are cavity nesters, they will often be found in attic overhangs and beneath bridges or ledges in parking garages.

While they are quite common, screech owls are good at keeping to themselves. Be sure to visit with Screechy in the Creature Cavern during your next visit to Discovery Place Nature.

So stop by Creature Cavern and take a close look at our resident owl, but keep the hooting to a minimum!

  • Written by
  • Erin Fisher