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Western Screech-Owl
Otus kennicottii macfarlanei

Western Screech-Owl

    Land Tenure - Western Screech-Owl
  • Length: 18-25 cm; wingspan: 55 cm.
  • Small owl with conspicuous ear tufts and yellow eyes.
  • Mottled brownish-grey.
  • More often heard than seen; two common calls are a hollow, whistled double trill and a series of low hoots that speed up toward the end like a bouncing ball.
  • The closely related Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus) is much smaller, has dark eyes and shorter ear tufts.


British Columbia Red List

Special Significance

In British Columbia's dry Southern Interior, Western Screech-Owls are restricted to the moist woodlands along streams and lakes. This species is at risk because of its small provincial population size and loss of breeding and foraging habitat. Landowners living in or near suitable screech-owl habitat can assist these birds by protecting remaining riparian habitats, retaining large, standing dead trees and constructing nest boxes. Further studies are required to determine the Western Screech-Owl's population density, habitat use and home range size.


  • In the Southern Interior, known to breed only in the Okanagan Valley.
  • May breed occasionally in Thompson and Kootenay valleys, but the few records there are mainly in the fall and winter.
  • Elevational range: below 600 metres.


  • Deciduous woodlands along lakeshores, streams, and rivers.
  • Nest trees are generally live or dead deciduous or coniferous trees; owls use natural cavities or abandoned cavities made by Northern Flickers and Pileated Woodpeckers.
  • Day roosts are in deciduous or coniferous tree cavities, nest boxes, buildings, trees, vines and crevices in cliffs.
  • Owls frequent urban and suburban areas where large trees are present.


  • Owls start nesting in early April; 4 to 5 eggs are commonly laid.
  • Broods appear from mid-May to early June.

Food Habits

  • Screech-Owls are generalists with a diet of insects, voles, mice, shrews, small birds, amphibians, earthworms, slugs, reptiles and fish.


  • Extensive land development in the Southern Interior has eliminated and fragmented Western Screech-Owl foraging and breeding habitat (low elevation coniferous and deciduous woodlands).
  • Large, standing decaying trees are often felled; these are potential nesting sites.

Management Considerations

  • Maintain patches of mature forest 5-10 hectares in size.
  • Retain large, standing coniferous and deciduous trees in riparian habitats.
  • Where large, standing deteriorating trees have been felled, allow a new generation of trees to develop; in the meantime, construct and erect owl boxes to provide suitable nesting sites.


1. Campbell, R.W., N. K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J. Cooper, G. Kaiser and M.C. McNall. 1990. Birds of British Columbia: Volume 2. Royal British Columbia Museum,Victoria, BC.
2. Cannings, R.A., R.J. Cannings and S.G. Cannings. 1987. Birds of the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC.
3. Kaufman, K. 1996. Lives of North American birds. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, New York.


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