A screech owl has a large head with large yellow eyes, a yellow beak, and white eyebrows. It has two tufts on the top of its head that appear to be ears but are really feathers. These owls also have feathered toes. Screech owls can have two different types of coloration, red or gray. These different types of coloring are called phases. The color has no relationship to the age or sex of the owl.
A screech owl is a small owl that stands approximately 7-10 inches (17.8-25.4 cm) tall and has a wingspan of 18-24 inches (45.7-61.0 cm). It weighs 6 or 7 ounces (170.1-198.4 g). As with other types of owls, the female is generally larger than the male.
Screech owls have an extremely varied diet and will feed on nearly anything that is smaller than them, including small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Mice and moles make up the majority of their diet. At Cosley Zoo, the screech owls are fed quail, chicken, and mice.
Screech owls begin nesting in March in natural tree cavities or the abandoned nests of other animals. The female will lay up to five small eggs per clutch (group of eggs). After the eggs are laid, females incubate them while the males guard the nests. Incubation takes an average of 30 days. The eggs generally hatch in the order they were laid, so that all the young are not born at the same time. Chicks begin to fly about four weeks after hatching. Screech owls mate for life.
Screech owls are found in many different types of habitats, including woodlands, orchards, and backyards with many trees. They avoid dense forests where the great horned owl, one of their major predators, lives.
Screech owls have the potential to live 8-10 years in the wild. However, because of high mortality rates for both juveniles and adults, very few of them make it to that age. In human care, their lifespan can be as high as 13 years.
As predators, screech owls help to control the populations of pest species including mice and insects.