Monday, 3 October 2011

Eastern screech owl

Megascops asio

Photo by Wolfgang Wander (Wikipedia)

Common name:
eastern screech owl (en); mocho-americano-oriental (pt); petit-duc maculé (fr); autillo yanqui (es); ost-kreischeule (de)
Order Strigiformes
Family Strigidae
This species is found through the eastern United States, also marginally across the border into southern Canada and south to north-east Mexico.
The eastern screech owl is 21-23 cm long and has a wingspan of 54-56 cm. They weigh 120-240 g.
This species inhabits open mixed woodlands, deciduous forests, parklands, wooded suburban areas, riparian woods along streams and wetlands, mature orchards, and woodlands near marshes, meadows, and fields. They will avoid dense forests because great horned owls Bubo virginianus use that habitat.
Eastern screech owls hunt from dusk to dawn, being an opportunistic hunter. A large part of their diet is composed of large insects, namely beetles, moths, crickets, grasshoppers and cicadas. They also take crayfish, snails, spiders, earthworms, scorpions, and centipedes, small mammals up to the size of a rabbit. Small birds such as chickadees, sparrows and warblers are often also hunted, but they can eat larger avian prey, including rock pigeons, northern bobwhite and even ruffed grouse. Irregularly, small fish, small snakes, lizards, baby soft-shelled turtles, small frogs, toads, and salamanders are also preyed upon.
These birds breed in April-June. They nest almost exclusively in tree cavities, with enlarged natural cavities being preferred, but they also using old woodpecker nests placed 2-6 m above the ground. The female lays 3-5 eggs which are mostly incubated by the female for 26 days. The male provides most of the food while the female broods the chicks, and will stockpile food during early stages. The chicks fledge 31 days after hatching. Each pair only produces a single clutch per year, but may re-nest if the first clutch is lost.
IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
The eastern screech owl has a very large breeding range and a global population estimated at 800.000 individuals. This population has undergone a small increase over the last 4 decades and is not considered threatened at present.

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