Western Screech Owl (Otus kennicotti) 8.5 inches long

Western Screech Owl, USFWS photo by Jim Rorabaugh

The Western Screech Owl is gray in color overall with blackish streaks and bars. Its eyes are yellow. This well-camouflaged little owl is more often heard than seen. Its call is a series of short, accelerating whistles. A nocturnal hunter, it preys principally on small rodents, small birds and insects, which it catches by swooping down from a lofty perch. It is a fairly common year-round resident in most of Arizona and New Mexico, particularly favoring open woodlands, riparian groves, suburbs and parks.

Western screech owl USFWS photo by Gary M. StolzA closely related species, the Whiskered Screech Owl (Otus trichopsis) is somewhat smaller at 7.25 inches long. It occurs in extreme southeast Arizona as an extension of its Mexican range. Like the western screech owl it is found in open woods at forest edges hunting rodents and insects. The two species are generally differentiated by their call. USFWS photo by Gary M. Stolz

References:

Alderfer, Jonathan (ed.). Field Guide to Birds: Arizona and New Mexico. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2006. This handy, pocket-size (4x6) guide includes most of the birds you're likely to see in Arizona. In addition to a photo, it includes information about behavior, habitat and specific local sites where you are likely to find the bird.

Barlowe, Dot. The Sonoran Desert by Day and Night: A Dover Coloring Book. New York: Dover Publications Pictorial Archive Series, 2002.

Cameron, Angus. The Nightwatchers. New York: Four Winds Press, 1971. Unfortunately this book seems to be out of print. It contains charming write-ups of the author's personal experiences with owls and wonderful drawings by Peter Parnall of the birds in their natural settings. It is worth looking for if you can find it in your library or used book store.

Corman, Troy E. and Cathryn Wise-Gervais (eds.) Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

Johnsgard, Paul A. North American Owls: Biology and Natural History (Second Edition). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002.