Western Screech Owl

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Western Screech Owl, Vancouver Island, BC
Western Screech Owl, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Robert Logan

The western screech owl lives year-round on Vancouver Island and on the mainland coast throughout the Fraser Valley as far as Hope.

The western screech owl is essentially non-migratory. On the coast, it is found in all woodland habitats, but it prefers mixed deciduous/coniferous forests, usually near a source of water. Hooting has been recorded every month on the coast but begins in earnest in February.

Similar to other owls, the screech owl females are larger than the males of their species. They have a compact size and shape. The screech owls are small and agile. They are about 25 cm tall and have a wingspan of about 65 cm. They have prominent, wide-set feather tufts with bright yellow eyes. They have brownish hues with a whitish, patterned underside. They have well developed raptorial claws and curved bill. They use them as a tool to tear their prey into pieces that are small enough for them to swallow. They tend to carry their prey to the nest and then eat it.

The screech owl habitat includes semi-open landscapes with old trees with hollows. Screech Owls have a good sense of hearing to help them locate their prey.

They are basically solitary birds and make their nests during the late winter breeding season. The male screech owls prefer making nests in cavities or even reuse the abandon nests of other birds. This is their way of attracting female screech owls for mating. The females select their mate based on the best cavity or nest and the amount of food present inside. After laying an egg, the male is responsible for feeding the female during the incubation period. The screech owls carry out biparental care of the young one. They fledge only one young per year.

The screech owl diet consists of a variety of prey like small rodents, rats, insects, reptiles, small mammals like bats and rabbits and other small birds.

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