Western Screech Owls: The Tiny, Mighty Predators of the Night

by Chris Anderson on February 07, 2024
If you're ever up late at night and hear a high-pitched trill, you might be in the presence of a Western Screech Owl. These small predators are found throughout western North America, and while they may be small, they are definitely mighty!



Western Screech Owls are adaptable birds found in various habitats, from Arizona's deserts to British Columbia's forests. They prefer areas with some trees or other vegetation and can often be found near water sources like streams or ponds. They are also known to take up residence in man-made structures like barns or nest boxes.

Size and Weight

Western Screech Owls are one of the smallest owl species in North America, measuring between 7 and 10 inches in length and weighing between 4 and 8 ounces. Despite their small size, they are fierce predators capable of taking down prey much larger than themselves.

Differences between Male and Female Western Screech Owls

Male and female Western Screech Owls look very similar, with females slightly larger than males. The easiest way to tell the difference is by their calls. Males have a higher-pitched call than females and often call from their perch to defend their territory.

Diet and Prey

Western Screech Owls are carnivorous, and their diet consists mainly of small mammals like mice, voles, and shrews. They will also eat birds, reptiles, and insects. They are opportunistic hunters and will eat whatever is available in their environment.

Unique Behavior

One of the most unique behaviors of Western Screech Owls is their ability to camouflage themselves. When threatened, they flatten their bodies and close their eyes, making themselves look like just another part of the tree they are perched on. They are also known for their ability to turn their heads almost all the way around, allowing them to see in almost all directions without moving their bodies.


Western Screech Owls mate for life and typically breed once a year. They lay between 2 and 6 eggs in a nest made of sticks and other vegetation. The male will bring food to the female while she is incubating the eggs, and both parents will feed the chicks once they hatch. The chicks will leave the nest after about four weeks but still rely on their parents for food for several weeks.

An Amazing Fact About Western Screech Owls

One amazing fact about Western Screech Owls is that they are known to store their excess food in tree cavities or other hiding places. This behavior is called caching, and it allows the owls to have a backup food source in case they cannot find food in their environment.

In conclusion, Western Screech Owls may be small, but they are mighty night predators. Their adaptability, unique behaviors, and fierce hunting skills make them a fascinating species to observe. If you ever hear their distinctive trill in the night, consider yourself lucky to be in the presence of such a wonderful creature.