Western screech owl with prey

This photograph of an owl and its prey was taken in our carport just outside the Tucson city limits.

Desert Duets: Western Screech Owl Info Web Page

Information about Western Screech Owl

The Western screech owl doesn't deserve its name. This small owl makes a whistling sound rather than a screech. When mating screech owls talk with one another, they sound like they are singing in harmony.

Listen to the Western screech owl's various calls at the bottom of the linked page on the Owling.com Web site.

Western screech owls live in the Sonoran Desert year round. They have yellow eyes and gray feathers, with a rim of black feathers around their faces and black bars on their undersides. These owls are seven to eleven inches long. The males and females look the same, but the females are larger. Of all the owls in the Sonoran Desert, only the elf owl is smaller.

Western screech owls short ear tuffs on the top of their heads express their feelings. They use the ears on the sides of their heads to locate their prey by sound in the dark. They hunt toads and small mammals, including mice, shrews, wood rats, and kangaroo rats. They also eat insects and arachnids such as scorpions.

They hunt from a perch and swoop down on their prey with their 18- to 24-inch wingspan. In urban areas, Western screech owls live closely with humans. The photograph above of the owl with its prey was taken in our carport. Like other owls, they cannot digest fur and bones. They spit out those parts of their prey in the form of ¾ to 1 ½ inch pellets. Western screech owls predators are hawks, snakes, raccoons, skunks, or even larger owls.

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Launched: February 2008
Updated: 13 September 2008