Bird Database

Eastern Screech-Owl

(Megascops asio)

State of the Birds
At a Glance







Collisions, Contaminants

Conservation Actions

Maintain a bird friendly yard

Eastern Screech-Owl

(Megascops asio)

While the Eastern Screech-Owl does screech, usually when agitated, this small owl is far better known for its monotone trill or descending “whinny,” both of which can be given by either sex. This is not a commonly heard sound in New Hampshire, where screech-owls are limited to the seacoast, lower Merrimack Valley, and, more rarely, the extreme southwestern corner of the state. That said, because these owls are small and secretive, there are likely more of them in these areas than existing data indicate. New Hampshire is also at the very northern edge of the species’ range, and to our south they can be the most common bird of prey in urban and suburban areas as long as there are a few trees.

These small owls are cavity nesters, and use old woodpecker holes, natural cavities in hollow trees, and bird boxes. They will also roost in such holes and move among several cavities in their territory after young have fledged or in response to disturbance. Like many owls, they start nesting early, with eggs often being laid in April and young fledgling by the end of May. They do not build a nest, instead laying their eggs directly on whatever is in the bottom of the cavity, be it an old bird or squirrel nest or natural detritus from the tree. For this reason, providers of nest boxes usually add wood chips or shavings to better simulate natural nesting conditions.

Eastern Screech-Owls come in three color morphs: rufous (or red) and gray, both of which maintain the species’ characteristic bark-like camouflaging markings. Both morphs occur in New Hampshire, although gray is far more common. The rufous morph is predominant in the southeastern United States, and research has suggested it is less adapted to colder temperatures than the gray. Females are more likely to be rufous as well, perhaps because their larger size provides more tolerance of cold temperatures and thus more rufous females survive in the northern part of the range.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Eastern Screech-Owl
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count