The Illusive Whiskered Screech Owl


The Illusive Whiskered Screech Owl

Welcome to my Whiskered Screech Owl Page. On here we will discuss in detail this species of Scops Owl and it’s relative the Western Screech Owl.

We will also look at their habitats and breeding habits, also an important factor to this page is the diet of these little owls. I will also talk about Pet Owls and Screech Owls in Falconry.

  • Latin Name - Megascops trichopsis
  • Wingspan – 13-16cm
  • Length - 16-19cm
  • Weight - 70-125grams

Description of Screech Owls

This Whiskered Owl is a tiny Scops Owl native to the southern states of America and South Americas. This bird is most common in Mexico and Arizona. This Screech Owl comes in two different colour morphs. One is red and the other is grey. The red morph becomes more prominent towards the southern regions of the owls geographical distribution.

With the Grey morph, the facial disk is silver grey, the eyes as with most owls are very large in relation to the head size and are bright yellow.

Around the edge of the face, there is a darker rim. This species of screech owl gets its name from it’s prominent whiskers around the beak area. These help the owl when feeding.

Owls don’t have very good close range vision. They have tube shaped Eyeballs and so are very long-sighted. For the Whiskered screech owl, instead of relying on sight when feeding like the diurnal hawk birds, Eagles and Falcon Birds they rely heavily upon being able to feel the food with the whiskers.

The beak and cere of this scops owl species are both dark grey/black and the ear tufts are not as prominent as owls such as the Eurasian Eagle Owl and the Great Horned Owl

The feathering on the upper body is very intricate and these owls are fantastically camouflaged.

The general colouration for the grey morph is light grey with intricate darker barring and webbing. The legs are heavily feathered all the way down to the brownish talons.

The whiskered screech owl is nocturnal and during the day uses its amazing camouflage to blend in and usually roosts up against a tree trunk.

Habitat of Screech Owls

This species of screech owl enjoys fairly close woodland habitats with plenty of foliage both for protection against predators and the likelihood of a steady supply of insects. As with their close cousin the Western Screech Owl, they do not venture into the very high altitude and feel most comfortable between 500m and 2000m above sea level.

Here is a video of a Western screech owl (close relative of the Whiskered) in ideal habitat.

Hunting and diet

This owl, as with the Western Screech owl is a true nocturnal bird. Some owls like the burrowing owl are not really nocturnal at all and in fact are more active during some of the daylight hours.

Although small, the whiskered screech owl is still an accomplished little predator. Some of the most common prey items on the menu for this scops owl are;

  • Caterpillars
  • Moths
  • Beetles
  • Spiders
  • Locusts
  • Grass Hoppers
  • Praying Mantids
  • Sometimes mice and other small mammals may be tried however only in times of desperation, the whiskered screech owl is extremely small and this can be risky business!

This owl, as with most Owls relies on its facial disk to pinpoint the exact location of the slightest sound.It then combines this with its highly tuned eyesight to home in on its prey. Add this to the silent flight and you’ve got yourself a highly evolved little bird!

Breeding of Screech Owls

Not very much is known on this secretive little owl. However, it is known that they nest in disused bird nests and/or holes in trees sometimes made by woodpeckers.

The female usually starts laying in early to mid spring and will lay 3-4 eggs. The male then does all the hunting until the eggs have hatched. The pair then shares the hunting.

Pet Owls – Whiskered Screech Owl in Falconry

The whiskered and western screech owl are not used in Falconry.

I am afraid to say that I have not heard of anyone actually flying the whiskered screech owl at all although I’m sure they are some. I know some screech owls and scops owls are used as display birds from time to time.

This species of owl is very delicate and also quite rare. It is not commonly seen either in captivity or in the wild.

Pet owls, however are quite common. With the right care and attention and in skilled, experienced hands, small owls can be great companions. The most common case of this is the burrowing owl which is often kept as a pet and can also be flown free. Jesses however are too heavy so they must be flown without.

Pet Owls can be great fun but unfortunately because the smaller species are so lovable, they often fall into the wrong hands. People must remember that these little predators need very specialised care and cannot be bought on a whim. A burrowing owl or a screech owl should be shown the same respect as a Red Tailed Hawk or a Peregrine Falcon If you really are dedicated to flying owls then these charming little creatures would give you hours of fun coupled with hours of frustration.

They are beautiful animals but please do not treat pet owls as toys!

Please feel free to browse the rest of the site :) P.s I hope you have enjoyed my Whiskered Screech Owl Page. If you would like to submit anything at all or your own views on any subject on the site then please write it down below on the submission form and I will upload it for you.

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