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 Tawny-bellied Screech Owl
[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/STRIGIFORMES/Strigidae/sounds/Tawny-bellied Screech Owl.mp3]
Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto
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Video Tawny-bellied Screech Owl
copyright: Josep del Hoyo
By some authorities the subspecies are seperated as two species, HBW and the AOU do not follow this split. Planetofbirds follows the HBW/AOU opinion.