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Whiskered Screech-Owl

Megascops trichopsis

Length: 7.25 inches Wingspan: 17.5 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Grayish overall (although a reddish morph also exists), streaks on underparts, orangish-yellow eyes.  Compared to Western Screech Owl --> Smaller size, smaller feet, paler bill

Whiskered Screech-Owl - Megascops trichopsisThe Whiskered Screech Owl is a small, relatively common owl of Mexico and Central America, with a range that just reaches the United States in far southern Arizona and New Mexico.   They share habitat with the very similar Western Screech-Owl, although the Western Screech-Owl has a much bigger U.S. Range, and has some subtle identification differences including a smaller size and a different voice. 

Habitat: Whiskered Screech-Owls are found in forested habitats, typically those with fairly dense tree cover.  In their small U.S. range, they are often found in wooded canyons. They can be found at relatively high elevations, if appropriate wooded habitat is available.

Diet: Feeds on a variety of small creatures, but most often feeds on large insects.  Also will feed on scorpions, small lizards, and small rodents.

Behavior: Nocturnal, hunting from dusk through the nighttime hours. They hunt by observing from a perch and flying out to snag prey with their talons when prey is spotted.  They can also sometimes capture insects in flight, either capturing slow-moving flying insects, or briefly hovering to glean insects from plants.

Nesting: The nest of a Whiskered Screech-Owl is in a tree cavity, often in an old woodpecker hole, but they will also use natural cavities if available.   Males vigorously defend nesting territories from other Whiskered Screech-Owls.  The female does most of the incubation of the eggs, but both parents help to rear the young.

Song: Song of the Whiskered Screech-Owl is a series of notes, usually four to eight, clearly separated with higher tones in the middle.  They also have a soft whistled cooing.

Migration: Considered a permanent resident throughout their range.  .

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Whiskered Screech Owl sightings

Similar Species: Western Screech-Owl

Conservation Status: There are currently no perceived major threats to overall Whiskered Screech-Owl populations, and the IUCN cites it as a species of "Least Concern". 

Further Information: 1) Audubon - Whiskered Screech-Owl

2) Owl - Whiskered Screech-Owl

3) New Mexico Partners in Flight - Whiskered Screech-Owl

Photo Information: September 2008 - Ruby, Arizona - David Bygott - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution/Non-Commerical/Share-Alike 2.0 License.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Whiskered Screech-Owl - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Whiskered Screech-Owl Photos (coming soon!!)