Creature Feature: Western Screech-Owl

Hoot-hoot! Hoothoothoothoot! Sounds like a Western Screech Owl! These shy owls are small, with mottled grey-brown plumage. They have obvious ear tufts and large yellow eyes.  Because of their small size (you could hold one in your hands!) they feed mainly on smaller prey items like snakes, frogs, rodents, and various large insects. Fun fact: they don't actually screech. Their name comes from their cousin, the Eastern Screech-Owl, who's call can be a very high pitched cry.
It is estimated that there are fewer than 250 Western Screech Owls left in Canada, making them a nationally Endangered species. Their decline is due almost entirely to loss of habitat. They live in creek-side woodlands, nesting only in natural cavities in large black cottonwood trees. There are very few healthy stands of cottonwood left in the South Okanagan because much of the human development in the area has centered around the valley bottoms where cottonwoods naturally occur.

What can you do to help the Western Screech-Owl?
Care for cottonwoods
Protect cottonwood trees if you have them on your property, or if you live near a forested stream or river, consider planting some cottonwoods of your own.
Maintain riparian (riverside) areas
Riparian areas are one of the ecosystems that are most heavily impacted by human activity. It is often cleared for urban development and agriculture, roaming livestock and recreational activities erode riverbanks and spread invasive species. By supporting riparian conservation and restoration efforts, you can help protect the habitat that the owls need most.
Install nest a box or two  
Nest boxes mimic the natural cavities that occur in large mature cottonwoods. By installing nest boxes, you can give the Screech-Owls somewhere to raise their young even if there are not enough cottonwoods in the area. To obtain a nest box or to acquire plans to make your own box, please contact us using the information found in the link above. Nest boxes should be installed a certain way: the link above also describes how to care for screech-owl boxes.

Listen If you live near a river or other waterway, you can listen in the evenings during the late winter and early spring to discover whether there are Western Screech-Owls in your neighborhood. Click the above link to find out what they sound like and what they look like. Remember, Screech-Owls are small - about the size of a Grande coffee cup from your favorite coffee place. The larger, similar-looking Great Horned Owl is more the size of a laptop computer and has a very deep hoot.

Do you think there may be Screech-owls on your property? Let us know!
Have you found an injured Western Screech Owl (or any other injured owl or bird of prey?) Contact the SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre at 250-498-4251

Thank you to our partners and funders

Thank you to our partners and funders