Saturday, August 23, 2008

Birds of a Feather

Eastern Screech Owls (Otus asio) work the night shift. They generally hunt from dusk to dawn or until their bellies are full. Their prey includes just about every living thing smaller than them, including bugs, worms, mice, moles, songbirds, small fish and crayfish. They often hunt from a perch in wooded, urban or suburban areas, althought they might hover over an area before swopping down for prey, or they might capture insects in midflight

One of their common calls sounds like a small horse whinnying. It's a eerie sound at night. Screech owls also trill, hoot and bark. Males call in a lower pitch than females.

Screech owls pair together for life, but if they lose a mate they may bond with another. Researchers report that a male screech owl might philander with a second female. Their "first mate" often responds by evicting the other female, laying eggs in her nest and incubating both clutches.

Screech owls can be gray or rusty colored. Like many owls, they are stocky and round-headed, but Eastern screech owls are small, usually less than 10 inches long. Unlike other small owls, screech owls have prominent ear tufts.

Although considered harmless, screech owls aggressively protect their nest. in an interesting turnabout, screech owls eat starlings, but starlings sometimes oust screech owls from their nest.

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