Whiskered Screech Owl

Whiskered Screech Owl

Whiskered Screech-owl, Whiskered owl, Spotted Screech owl, Arizona Whiskered owl

Megascops trichopsis
Population size
Life Span
13 yrs
85-98 g
17.5-19 cm
40-50 cm

The Whiskered screech owl is a small screech owl found in North and Central America. Adult birds occur in 2 color morphs, in either brown or dark grey plumage. They have a round head with ear tufts, yellow eyes, and a yellowish bill. These birds look very similar to Western screech owls, but have heavier barring on the breast, and are slightly smaller in size.


The range of Whiskered screech owls extends from southeasternmost Arizona (the Madrean sky islands region) in the United States, southwards through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, to north-central Nicaragua. They inhabit dense coniferous or oak woodlands, coffee plantations, or canyon forests near rivers or lakes.

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Whiskered screech owls are generally solitary and outside of the breeding season they prefer to spend time singly. They are active at night or near dusk, using their excellent hearing and night vision to locate prey. These birds wait on a perch until the prey is spotted and then swoop down to capture it with their talons. They can also catch insects in flight. The most common call of Whiskered screech owls is a series of about 8 regularly spaced "boo" notes, slightly higher in the middle, slightly lower at each end.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Whiskered screech owls are carnivores. They mainly eat small mammals and large insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, moths, crickets, and caterpillars.

Mating Habits

26 days
owlet, fledgling
3-4 eggs

Whiskered screech owls are serially monogamous; they form pairs that usually remain together for at least one mating season. Breeding usually occurs in April and May. Pairs nest in a tree cavity or old woodpecker hole 5 to 7 meters above the ground. Females lay a clutch of 3 to 4 eggs and incubate them alone for about 26 days. Owlets hatch completely helpless, blind, with pinkish skin and white downy feathers. They fledge 24-30 days later but parents usually continue to feed them for some time more.


Population threats

Whiskered screech owls don't face any major threats at present. However, in some areas of their range these birds suffer from habitat loss and continuous disturbances such as eco-tourism and recreational development.

Population number

According to the New Mexico Avian Conservation Partners Website (NMACP) the total population size of the Whiskered screech owl is around 200,000 individuals, less than 5% of which occurs in the United States. In New Mexico, the population in surveyed canyons in the Peloncillo Mountains numbers some 20-25 pairs. Overall, currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Screech owls are the smallest owls that are found in North America.
  • Whiskered screech owls often hide uneaten prey in tree cavities.
  • When Screech owls are confronted by a slightly larger bird of prey they will puff up their plumage to look larger hoping to scare the predator away. However, if a predator is much larger, Screech owls will make themselves look skinny trying to resemble a tree branch; they will elongate the body and flatten their feathers, squint their eyes, and may even move back and forth to imitate the movements of a branch.
  • Owls very rarely drink water but they gladly take a bath.
  • Owls do not chew their food but use their beak to tear their prey apart and swallow it.


1. Whiskered Screech Owl on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiskered_screech_owl
2. Whiskered Screech Owl on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22688766/93208062

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