The most common of our small owls, the eastern screech-owl comes in two color morphs: red and gray, with gray being the more common. Its small size, cryptic coloration, and inactivity during the day make this bird easy to overlook.
Eastern screech-owls utter a series of high, wavering whinnies that descend in tone. This is often followed by a long trill on a single, lower tone.
Your first clue to a screech-owl’s presence might be hearing its haunting call at dusk. If it sounds close by, try slowly moving a flashlight across nearby trees, watching for the reflection of the bird’s yellow eyes.
This species can be difficult to find because it is nocturnal. A cavity nester, it prefers habitats with old trees that have holes to nest in. Found in woodland settings, including suburbs and city parks.
If your backyard is wooded, consider putting up an owl nesting box. Place it high on a tree that has a trunk wider than the box. The box opening (three inches in diameter) should face south.