The Screech-Owls (genus Megascops)
…are the only small owls in North America (except for Flammulated, which used to be in the same genus) that bear ear-tufts. The reason for these tufts is debated, but likely has some function in communication, as they can be erected or flattened in different situations; interestingly, virtually all ear-tufted owls inhabit dense woodlands.
We have three species of screech-owl: Eastern (pictured), Western, and Whiskered. All remain on their breeding territory year-round. They roost in cavities in trees or buildings (or sometimes nestboxes), and during the winter can often be seen dozing in the opening, especially on sunny or mild days. Screech-owls are fairly adaptable and can often be found in treed urban or suburban areas. They are opportunistic hunters, which allows them to find food in any area; they prey primarily on large invertebrates during the summer and small mammals in winter.
All three of our species have two color morphs: a gray, and a brown or reddish. The latter is especially vibrant in the Eastern Screech-Owl, shown here. Their main call is actually a whinny or trill; they also make short barks, and less often the high-pitched screech for which they’re named.
photo by Phil Brown (nebirdsplus on Flickr)
(via: Peterson Field Guides)