Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Western Screech-owl (Megascops kennicottii)


French: Petit-duc des montagnes German: Westkreischeule Spanish: Autillo californiano

Scops Kennicottii


, 1867,

Sitka, Alaska


Generally thought to be closest to M. seductus, M. cooperi and M. asio, and often considered to include first two of those as races. Formerly treated as conspecific with M. asio, 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. asio form two distinct monophyletic clades#R and should therefore be treated as separate species, as suggested by vocal and morphological studies. Has reportedly hybridized with M. trichopsis in Arizona#R. Race vinaceus has been proposed as approaching species level (possibly with xantusi as a race); study needed. Geographical limits of listed races uncertain, with intergrades at boundaries; ranges given below based on a recent in-depth treatment#R. Many additional races described, but often known from few specimens, and some probably reflect individual variation, or represent morphs (or perhaps even hybrids): saturatus and brewsteri included in nominate; clazus and quercinus in bendirei; mychophilus, gilmani, inyoensis and cineraceus in aikeni; sortilegus in suttoni; and sinaloensis in vinaceus. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. k. kennicottii (Elliot, 1867) – Western Screech-owl – coast from S Alaska and NW Canada (W British Columbia) S in USA to W Oregon.
  • M. k. macfarlanei Brewster, 1891 – S British Columbia S to E Oregon, Idaho and W Montana.
  • M. k. bendirei (Brewster, 1882) – W California and extreme NW Mexico (NW Baja California).
  • M. k. aikeni Brewster, 1891 – SW USA (E California E to SE Colorado) S to N Mexico (NC Sonora and NW Chihuahua).
  • M. k. cardonensis (Huey, 1926) – N Baja California (NW Mexico).
  • M. k. yumanensis (A. H. Miller & L. Miller, 1951) – SE California and SW Arizona to NW Mexico (NE Baja California and NW Sonora).
  • M. k. suttoni (R. T. Moore, 1941) – extreme S USA (SW Texas) S through Mexican Plateau (E Chihuahua and W Coahuila S to Hidalgo).
  • M. k. xantusi Brewster, 1902 – S Baja California.
  • M. k. vinaceus Brewster, 1888 – Vinaceous Screech-owl – W Mexico (S Sonora and W Chihuahua to N Sinaloa).
  • Descriptive notes

    21–24 cm; male 131–210 g, ­female 157–305 g (heaviest females are race macfarlanei during laying). Occurs in grey-brown and rufous-buff morphs... read more


    Primary song a double trill, first short and second long, dropping near end; secondary song... read more


    Open woodland, semi-open country with scattered trees and bushes, riparian forest, cactus desert,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, small mammals (rodents, bats, flying squirrels) and birds; also, some frogs and reptiles. Opportunistic and catholic in diet.... read more


    Laying as early as Feb, typically Mar and Apr, earlier in S; most young fledge by Jun; no records of double brooding, but pairs renest if... read more


    Adults resident throughout range. Juveniles may disperse long distances to find unoccupied... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Fairly common to locally common. Global population estimate 740,000 individuals, 73% occurring in the USA and Canada. In... 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. (2019). Western Screech-owl (Megascops kennicottii). 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 21 November 2019).