Chihuahuan Desert Wildlife: Western Screech Owl

By Jacob Croft

Western Screech Owl

Megascops Kennicotti

Status: Least Concerned

Size: 7.5-9.8 inches

Habitat: Woodlands

The Western Screech Owl, looking much like the Eastern Screech Owl, is found in the western US and Mexico. They live here in El Paso, but are not commonly seen. Watch for them in the evenings or early mornings. They are nocturnal hunters and spend their days sleeping in their nests, usually in a tree cavity made by a woodpecker.

The Western Screech Owl is a very adaptable bird of prey and is primarily found in forests, but can also be seen in deserts or anywhere there is a hole for a nest. Common prey species include insects, invertebrates like scorpions and centipedes, small mammals, birds, and small reptiles and amphibians. 

The Western Screech Owl is adaptable to change, but does need older trees large enough for tree cavities. Like everything else in nature they have an important role to play, in this case helping to keep in balance the prey species they feed on.

Look carefully for our Western Screech Owl in the Mixed Species Exhibit across from Big Cat Mountain where our jaguars and mountain lions live part of their day. They share their exhibit with Gambel’s Quails, Roadrunners and a family of Burrowing Owls.

Source – Western Screech-Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. , All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (n.d.).

Top – Bettina Arrigoni, Wikimedia Creative Commons
Bottom and Cover- Tom Benson, Wikimedia Creative Commons

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