Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Eastern Screech-owl (Megascops asio)


French: Petit-duc maculé German: Ostkreischeule Spanish: Autillo yanqui

Strix Asio


, 1758,

South Carolina, USA


Generally thought to be closest to M. kennicottii, M. seductus and M. cooperi, and often considered to include last two of those as races. Formerly treated as conspecific with M. kennicottii, and the two occasionally interbreed where ranges meet or overlap (separated by 60 km in Oklahoma “panhandle”, slightly sympatric in Colorado Springs, broadly overlapping in Texas, areas of contact in Mexico undetermined)#R; recent genetic studies, however, indicate that present species and M. kennicottii form two distinct monophyletic clades#R and should therefore be treated as separate species, as suggested by vocal and morphological differences. Geographical limits of listed races require further study; naevius sometimes merged with nominate. Race lambi previously treated in HBW (and elsewhere#R) as race of M. cooperi, but the two are sympatric; treated as full species in recent monograph#R and by subsequent author#R, but voice like that of present species. Additional described races probably reflect no more than individual variation or refer to intermediates: swenki (of SC Canada to Oklahoma) included in maxwelliae, and semplei (from C Mexico) in mccallii. Seven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. a. maxwelliae (Ridgway, 1877) – SC Canada and NC USA.
  • M. a. naevius (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – SE Canada and NE USA (S to North Carolina).
  • M. a. asio (Linnaeus, 1758) – Eastern Screech-owl – Oklahoma E to South Carolina and Georgia.
  • M. a. hasbroucki (Ridgway, 1914) – C Oklahoma to Texas.
  • M. a. floridanus (Ridgway, 1874) – Louisiana to Florida.
  • M. a. mccallii (Cassin, 1854) – S Texas to NE Mexico.
  • M. a. lambi (R. T. Moore & J. T. Marshall, 1959) – Oaxaca Screech-owl – S Mexico (Pacific slope of Oaxaca).
  • Descriptive notes

    18–23 cm; male 166 g, female 194 g. Extremely similar to M. kennicottii; differs in more prominent, blackish rim to facial disc, somewhat less coarsely... read more


    Primary song quavering, low-pitched descending trill, the "bounce" call, c. 4·6... read more


    Tree-dominated landscapes: early successional to mature, mountain slopes to river valleys, usually... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet among most varied of any Nearctic owl: terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates (primarily insects, crayfish, earthworms), and wide range... read more


    Season Mar–Sept; at N edge of range in Manitoba, fledging dates ranged from 28 May–3 Jul (mean 15 Jun). Genetically monogamous... read more


    Resident, with adults remaining on territories throughout their lives. N birds reported to move S... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Global population estimate 770,000 individuals. Long-term negative effects of humans on species as a whole doubtful.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Holt, D.W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Eastern Screech-owl (Megascops asio). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 February 2020).