Adults range from 16 to 25 cm (6.3 to 10 in) in length and weigh 121-244 g. with a wingspan from 46 to 61 cm (18 to 24 in). They have either rusty or dark gray intricately patterned plumage with streaking on the underparts. It is a medium sized bird, stocky, short-tailed and broad winged. They have a large round head, prominent ear tufts, yellow eyes and a yellowish bill. Rusty birds are more common in the southern parts of the range; pairings of the two color variants do occur. The color variations are referred to as red morph and gray morph.

Habitat and Distribution

This bird is common in Eastern North America, from Mexico to Canada. Rusty birds are occur more in the southern parts of the range, and the pale gray variation exists also in western Canada and north-central United States. The birds inhabit deciduous forests, parklands, wooded suburban areas, riparian woods along streams and wetlands, mature orchards, and woodlands near marshes, meadows, and fields. Their breeding habitat is mixed woods in east North America.


It is a predator, which dives quickly and seizes prey in its talons. For the better part of the year, insects and invertebrates make up the diet.


Eastern Screech Owls nest in a tree cavity, either natural or excavated by a woodpecker; they will also use nesting boxes. The bird doesn't actually build a nest; instead, females lay their eggs directly on the layer of fur left over from previous meals that lines the bottom of its den. Eggs are laid every two days and incubation begins after laying of the first egg. Incubation takes about 26 days.

Calls and Songs

The Eastern Screech-Owl's call is a haunting tremolo with a descending, whinny-like quality. It is often heard at night.