Screech Owls Are Tiny But Mighty

What do you think of when you think of owls? Big birds that hoot into the night?

An eastern screech owl. (Photo via Shutterstock)

That’s the common perception of owls, but there’s more than 200 different kinds of owls in the world. Not all of them are big, and not all of them hoot.


The eastern screech owl is one of eight owls that live in Illinois, but it’s among the smallest. And screech owls do hoot, but it’s not their most well-known call or sound. Learn more about these owls below.

Fun facts

  • Eastern screech owls are small owls. They stand between 6 inches and 9 inches tall. Compare that with the great horned owl, one of the biggest owls. Great horned owls are usually between 18 inches and 25 inches tall, which is three to four times as big as the eastern screech owl.

  • Screech owls can be either gray or reddish-brown in color. Gray screech owls are the most common. Only about one-third of these owls are the reddish-brown color.

  • Screech owls have tufts of ear feathers that look like little horns. Great horned owls also have these ear tufts, and that is what they are named after.

  • These owls are named for the screeching sound they sometimes make, but they can also hoot and whinny like a horse. Screech owls have many nicknames too. They are sometimes called cat owls, mouse owls, ghost owls, dusk owls and little horned owls, among other names.

  • Most owls are carnivores, which means they eat other animals. Screech owls eat many different kinds of animals, including insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds.

  • Owls regurgitate pellets of undigested food. They eat the animals they catch whole or in large pieces, and not everything they eat, like bones and fur, can be digested. These undigested parts are formed into a pellet, which they expel from their mouths once or twice a day.

  • Screech owls don’t migrate like many other birds. They stay in one place all year long.

  • These owls play an important role in the ecosystem because they are predators. They eat a lot of insects, small mammals and other small animals, which helps keep the populations of those animals from getting too large.

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