South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Eastern Screech Owl

Megascops asio

Length: 8.5 inches Wingspan: 20 inches Seasonality: All seasons
ID Keys: Tufts on head, yellow eyes, streaked underparts, gray or reddish morph body

Eastern Screech Owl - Megascops asioEastern Screech Owls are a common little owl often found in residential areas and parks, where their haunting calls are often the only indication of their presence.  They are nocturnal, but can occasionally be spotted on perches in thick tree canopies during the day.   There are various color morphs, but the gray morph is generally the most common in the state A red morph is shown in the photo to the right, but photos of both the gray and red morph can be seen in the photo links at the bottom of the page.

Habitat: Open forest, isolated groves, residential shade trees.  Generally needs dead trees with nesting holes.

Diet: Mostly insects and small rodents.  Will also eat frogs, lizards, earthworms, crustaceans, and small birds. 

Behavior: Forages at night, primarily by watching from a perch and swooping down when prey is spotted.  They can find prey both by sight and by sound, and are also capable of catching insects in flight.

Nesting: April and May in South Dakota.  The nest of an Eastern Screech Owl is a cavity in a tree, often an old woodpecker hole.  They also have become well adapted to the use of nest boxes specially sized for screech owls.  The female alone incubates the eggs, but the male will bring food to her during incubation.  Both parents will help to raise the young.

Song: Haunting descending whinny.

Migration: Considered a permanent resident throughout it's normal range.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Eastern Screech Owl sightings

Similar Species: Northern Saw-whet Owl, Flammulated Owl, Western Screech Owl

Nestboxes: Will use artificial nest boxes of appropriate size.

Conservation Status: Widespread, with numbers generally stable.  Well adapted to a human presence.  The IUCN currently lists the Eastern Screech Owl as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Eastern Screech Owl

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Eastern Screech Owl"

3) -- Eastern Screech Owl

Photo Information: June 11th, 2006 - Beaver Creek Nature Area, Minnehaha County, South Dakota- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Eastern Screech Owl photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Eastern Screech Owl - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common permanent resident in the eastern part of the state, uncommon in the west.