- Photo(s): Bill Kaufman
They do not migrate. They live on the edges of wooded areas, in the desert and within urban areas.
These small grey owls are 7 – 11 inches tall with a wingspan of 18 – 24 inches. Males weigh 5.5 oz and females about 6.5 oz. They have ear tufts, yellow irises and a dark bill. Heavy vertical breast streaks help provide camouflage.
They do not migrate. They live on the edges of wooded areas, in the desert and within urban areas. They are territorial; familiarity with their environment helps them hunt successfully at night, catching prey with talons or beak. They swallow their prey whole and may eat mice, shrews, grasshoppers, frogs, beetles, moths and will eat other birds, even doves and pigeons. They may be preyed upon by hawks, larger owls, crows, raccoons, snakes, squirrels and other screech owls. When threatened, the owl stretches its body and tightens its feathers to look like a tree branch. They see well at night but not from great distances; therefore they hunt prey close to the ground. They can swivel their head 270 degrees.
They have exceptional hearing with ear holes at different levels to pinpoint sound direction. The feathers are fringed with softer edges to break air for soundless flight.
The owls nest in old woodpecker cavities and natural tree cavities. Males vigorously defend their territories around the nest site. They mate for life. They preen each other’s heads and nibble at each other’s beaks. The male may be seen bowing to the female. The female incubates 2 – 5 eggs in early spring for 26 – 34 days. The male feeds the female during this time. Babies fledge in one month after being cared for by both parents.
The genus Otus is from the Greek word otos meaning owl.
This photograph was taken outside the SCVN office.