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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 19 years (captivity) Observations: In the wild, these animals may live up to 12.9 years (Clapp et al. 1983). Two captive birds lived to the age of 19 (http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/).
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Comprehensive Description

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Megascops kennicottii, commonly known as the Western screech owl, is a small grey owl belonging to the family Strigidae (Alden 1998). Until the 1980’s the Western screech owl and the similar Eastern screech owl (Megasopsis asio) were considered the same species, but the two are now seen as distinct (Kaufmann 2017). M. kennicottii is native to western North America, with its most common range consisting of coastal British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. It can also be found in Idaho, California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico, but its dispersal is much more patchy and uncommon in these areas (Cannings et al. 2017). Megascops kennicottii, can most commonly be found inhabiting coastal deciduous forests below six thousand feet (1,828 meters) in elevation. However, they are also known to occupy other biomes, such as the non-extreme deserts of Arizona and parks and suburbs in populated areas (All About Birds 2015). They are essentially non-migratory, with a limited range of around three hundred kilometers (Cannings et al. 2017).

Megascops kennicottii has a distinctly short, stocky body, with an average length of 20-25 cm.. It has a wingspan of around 60 cm and usually weighs from 100-300 g. (All About Birds 2015). Females are typically about four percent larger than their male counterparts. The external features of Megascops kennicottii vary slightly depending on their native region, but generally it has brown or grey-brown plumage. The coastal populations of the Pacific Northwest are more diverse in plumage, with seven percent of individuals colored a reddish brown. Its dorsal body feathers are grey or brown with a dark central streak and thin horizontal bars, while its ventral feathers are whitish but also have the dark central streak and horizontal bars. Its remiges (wing flight feathers) and rectrices (tail feathers) are also a brown or dark grey color with lighter, whitish bars, and its face is often pale, ranging from white to pale-brown or pale-grey with dark lateral borders. M. kennicottii is most distinguishable by its lemon-yellow eyes. Its legs and feet are mostly covered with feathers and its toe scales and claws are yellowish to greyish in color, becoming darker toward the tips. Its bill also begins yellowish and darkens to a bluish gray toward the tip (Cannings et al. 2017).

Despite its name, the Western screech owl does not screech, but instead has a call consisting of a series of accelerating hoots with a rhythm similar to that of a bouncing ball. Primarily nocturnal, it hunts a wide variety of small prey including rodents, amphibians, birds, fish, worms, and insects (Cannings et al. 2017). These owls practice the “sit and wait style” of hunting, patiently waiting and watching from above and swooping in on prey (All About Birds 2015). Wild Megascops kennicottii typically live one to eight years. It has been estimated that they begin breeding as one-year-old adults, and attempt to nest yearly. They are monogamous breeders, with females typically laying three to five eggs. They are referred to as “cavity nesters” because they nest in holes of a tree where branches have broken off, rather than piling sticks and leaves together (Cannings et al. 2017).

References

  • Alden, Peter. 1998. National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Pacific Northwest.
  • New York: Knopf.
  • Kaufmann, Ken. 2017. “Western Screech Owl.” National Audubon Society, Guide to North American Birds., http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/western-screech-owl?site=wa§ion=search_results. Accessed May 21, 2017.
  • Cannings, Richard J., Tony Angell, Peter Pyle, and Michael A. Patten. 2017. Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii). The Birds of North America (P.G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/wesowl1/introduction Accessed: May 23, 2017.
  • All About Birds. 2015. “Western Screech Owl” Cornell University, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Screech-Owl/id. Accessed May 20, 2017.

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Authors: Amelia Serfin and Kathleen Ungo; Editor: Dr. Gordon Miller; Seattle University EVST 2100 - Natural History: Theory and Practice, Spring 2017.
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Western screech owl

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The western screech owl (Megascops kennicottii) is a small owl native to North and Central America, closely related to the eastern screech owl. The scientific name commemorates the American naturalist Robert Kennicott.

Description

Length averages 22 cm (8.7 in), wingspan 55 cm (22 in), and weight 143 g (5.0 oz). Weight ranges from 88 to 220 g (3.1 to 7.8 oz).[3] Females are larger than males and northern populations are notably larger than southern populations.[4] Adults are larger than whiskered screech owls, with larger feet and a more streaked plumage pattern.

There are several morphs: brown Pacific, grey Pacific, Great Plains, Mojave, and Mexican. All have either brown or dark gray plumage with streaking on the underparts. There is no red morph.

They have a round head with ear tufts, yellow eyes, and a yellowish bill. Their appearance is quite similar to whiskered and eastern screech owls, so it is best to identify them by their calls. They were previously considered to be the same species as the eastern screech owl.[5]

Call

The primary call is an accelerating series of short whistles at an increasing tempo or a short then long trill falling slightly at end. Other calls: barking and chuckling, similar to the eastern screech owl.[5] They also make a high pitched screech.

The two primary songs for the Western Screen Owl are the bounce and double trill. In a recent study, researchers utilizes sonographic analysis of tape-recorded vocalizations to analyze whether the songs differ in male and females and if so, how accurately could songs be classified by sex. It was discovered that on average, male bounce songs were ~30% lower in frequency than bounce songs of females. However, song duration, note duration, number of notes per bout, and internet duration did not differ. For trill songs, males were also significantly lower in frequency compared to those of females. In addition, female double trill songs had greater internet distances in the leading portion. [6]

Range and habitat

The western screech owl is native to Canada, United States, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.[1] Its habitat includes temperate forests, subtropical and tropical montane forests, shrubland, desert, rural fields, and even suburban parks and gardens.[1]

Breeding

They are permanent residents of the northwest North and Central America, breeding in open woods, or mixed woods at forest edges. They often use holes in trees or cacti that were opened by woodpeckers.

Prey

These birds wait on perches to swoop down on unsuspecting prey; they may also catch insects in flight. They are active at dawn, night, or near dusk, using their excellent hearing and night vision to locate prey. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals such as mice or rats, birds, and large insects; however they are opportunistic predators, even taking small trout at night. Motion-activated cameras have photographed the birds eagerly scavenging a road-kill opossum. They have also been known to hunt Mallard ducks and cottontail rabbits, occasionally. Hatching of their young, usually four to five, is synchronized with the spring migration of birds; after migrants pass through screech-owls take fledglings of local birds.

Subspecies

There are 9 recognized subspecies:[7]

Gallery

Notes

  1. ^ a b c BirdLife International (2016). "Megascops kennicottii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22688747A93207555. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22688747A93207555.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Appendices | CITES". cites.org. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  3. ^ CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
  4. ^ [1] (2011).
  5. ^ a b The Sibley Guide to Birds, by David Allen Sibley, ISBN 0-679-45122-6
  6. ^ Herting, Brian L (1 October 2001). "Bounce and Double Trill Songs of Male and Female Western Screech-Owls: Characterization and Usefulness for Classification of Sex". The Auk. 118 (4): 1095. doi:10.1093/auk/118.4.1095. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Megascops kennicottii". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 4 April 2011.

References

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Western screech owl: Brief Summary

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The western screech owl (Megascops kennicottii) is a small owl native to North and Central America, closely related to the eastern screech owl. The scientific name commemorates the American naturalist Robert Kennicott.

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