The genus Megascops comprises 22 living species are known at present, but new ones are frequently recognized and unknown ones are still being discovered on a regular basis, especially in the Andes. For most of the 20th century, this genus was merged with the Old World scops-owls in Otus, but nowadays it is again considered separate based on a range of behavioral, biogeographical, morphological and DNA sequence data. Screech-owls are restricted to the Americas. Some species formerly placed with them are nowadays considered more distinct.
As usual for owls, female screech-owls are usually larger and fatter than the males of their species, with owls of both sexes being compact in size, shape, and height. The Eastern Screech-owl Megascops asio is one of the smallest species of owls in North America. All of the birds in this genus are small and agile. Screech-owls are generally colored in various brownish hues with usually a whitish, patterned underside, which helps to camouflage them against the bark of trees. Some are polymorphic, occurring in a grayish- and a reddish-brown morph.
Listen to the sound of Flammulated Owl
Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto
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Nests in relatively open forest, typically of ponderosa pine, in cool and fairly dry zones such as mountains of the interior. In some areas, favors groves of aspen. The upper level of its forest is usually quite open, but there may be a brushy understory
of oaks and other plants. In migration, sometimes found in dense thickets at lower elevations.
Nest: Site is in cavity in tree, usually old woodpecker hole, usually 15 -40′ above ground. Will also use artificial nest boxes. No nest built, eggs laid in bottom of nest cavity.
Clutch 2 -3, sometimes 4. White or creamy white. Incubation is by female only, 21 -24 days. Male brings food to incubating female at nest.
Female remains with nestlings for about 12 days after they hatch; male brings food for female and young. After about 12 days, female also hunts. Young leave nest by about 25 days after hatching, perch in trees nearby. At least sometimes, brood splits up
after fledging, each parent tending 1-2 of the young for about another 4 weeks.
Feeds almost entirely on insects, especially moths, beetles, and crickets. Also eats a few spiders, centipedes, scorpions, and other arthropods. Almost never eats vertebrates, but was once proven to have eaten a shrew.
Behavior: Hunts most actively just after dark and near dawn, less in middle of night. Forages by perching and looking for insects, then flying out to catch them. May catch prey in the air or on the ground, but apparently most often take
s insects from foliage, hovering momentarily and grabbing them with feet.
Video Flammulated Owl
copyright: Paul Clarke
or winter. May tend to migrate north through the lowlands in spring (when insects may be scarce at upper elevations), and south through the mountains in fall.