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Photo: Eastern Screech Owl Haunts The Night

wildlife, owls, owl facts
(Image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Eastern screech owl in the above photo looks quite surprised — perhaps because this species isn't used to being spotted by humans, despite living in the suburbs.

Eastern Screech Owls are a nocturnal animal, so despite being common in residential neighborhoods in eastern North America, most people never notice them. They call out at night — especially during the spring mating season — but their call isn't actually a screech, like from a hawk, but more of a haunting, trembling sound.

Adult Eastern screech owls are up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) long with a wingspan of up to 24 inches (61 cm). The compact birds weigh up to 8.6 ounces (244 grams). These owls are either rusty or dark gray and are perfectly camouflaged for hiding in the trees.

Eastern screech owls hunt from dusk to dawn, swooping down from perches and seizing prey in their talons or swallowing small prey whole on the spot. The Eastern screech owl's sharp hearing can detect mammals hiding under heavy snow.

For a favorite meal, Eastern screech owls gobble up large insects, including beetles, moths, crickets, grasshoppers and cicadas. During winter months, these owls feast on small mammals, including shrews and rabbits.

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Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.