Friday, January 30, 2015

More Screeches

            I would like to thank everybody for their support and feedback from last week. It really was amazing.

            Jan Ferrell, a naturalist here at GNC, found this picture on Facebook under the title "Snowy Owl". Thank you Jon Cefus for taking this incredible picture!!

         Can you see it yet?? Take a closer look . . .        If you still can't see the owl, read down below, or study the picture a little bit longer. 

      In case you can't find the little bird, he's actually right in the middle of the image. Can you see that light colored gash down the center of the middle tree? Follow it down until you see that little patch of white, This is actually the Screech-Owl's head! Pretty awesome camouflage, right?

      Unfortunately, that is the only picture I have for you that is new and not just randomly found on Google. If you have a picture that you would like to see here on the blog, just send it to me via email at    You can also send your comments that way as well (I think that you have to have a Google+ account in order to comment directly on the blog). Again, thanks for the support! 

Next week I'll have another actual post up. See you then!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Screech of the Woods

                Have you ever heard a trilling or clicking noise at night? Or maybe a high pitched whinnying or a screech? You might have just heard the call of an Eastern Screech Owl. They are capable of making a large variety of sounds, the three most common of which are a monotonic trill (the pitch doesn't change), a high whinny that descends in pitch, and a loud clicking that they make with their beaks. These sounds can be heard most commonly during the night, but they can be heard during the day as well if a group of small birds start to mob the owl. You might not see the owl at first though.

          Eastern Screech Owls have a very good camouflage. Red and gray are the two different morphs of color they come in, although grey is far more prominent among the owls. A brown-ish color is also becoming more common for the birds and can make it difficult to tell the difference between the red and grey morphs of color. Their plumage (feathers) is made specifically to help them blend in with their surroundings and you might just skip over them if you don’t look close enough. Camouflage is a major advantage for the small owl, because while it is a hunter and doesn't need its prey to see it, Screech-Owls are also between six and ten inches long, which makes them prey for larger birds. Here at the Nature Center, we have two Screech Owls; one red morph, and one grey. This way, you are able to compare the two and see their size. The wingspan of these beautiful birds is anywhere from nineteen to twenty-four inches, but they only weigh between four and eight ounces, which leads to very small hatchlings.


          Baby Screech Owls hatch with their eyes closed, which leaves them very vulnerable for the first part of their life. They usually come in clutches between two and six, and are as white as the eggs they hatched from. Screech Owl eggs are almost perfectly circular and are usually just over an inch in diameter. These eggs hatch after about thirty days and the babies are fully dependent on their parents for food for up to ten weeks after they begin learning how to fly. At this point they are called fledglings and the most common way for them to learn to fly is for the young owl to jump out of the nest and onto the ground before trying to hop and flutter its way back to the top. It’s not uncommon for hikers to find baby owls in the woods and think that they are abandoned, which is not usually the case. If you find a baby owl in the woods, chances are that it’s learning how to fly, and its parents will be most happy if you just leave the fledgling alone so that it can climb back up to its nest and tell its siblings about the adventure it just had. Learning to fly is a slow and tedious lesson for the young owls, but it is what gives them the ability to hunt. This gives them independence and once the skill is fairly mastered, they begin traveling farther and farther away from the nest, until they are living on their own and ready to start a family. Screech Owls are usually monogamous, which means that they only have mate in their lives. There have, however, been cases in which a male would have two different mates at different times, but that is rare. Chances are, if you see an owl family in the woods, the parents will be together for the rest of their lives.


          Eastern Screech Owls are native to all of Ohio and can be found almost everywhere east of the Rocky Mountains. They prefer areas with tree coverage, and tree cavities or nesting boxes are absolutely essential because they do not build their own nests. These small owls live and breed very well in or near farmland and suburban areas, which Ohio has plenty of, because of the abundance of small rodents, invertebrates (which include earthworms, crayfish, frogs, and insects), and small birds. They have even been known to prey upon bats, which is highly impressive given that bats are extremely agile flyers. These small birds of prey are one of the most successful owls in Ohio and are the most common owls in our state. Its ability to adapt to human influence and broad diet are but a few of the reasons. So, next time you take an evening hike, listen carefully, and you might just be surprised by what you hear.


The main source that I used (the only one besides personal contact with local naturalists and personal experiences) is this website:
Feel free to click on the link and navigate the page to verify my facts and expand on things that I didn't include, or to hear each of the calls of the Screech Owls that are described in the first paragraph along with several others. If you want to see one of these beautiful birds up close and in person, come stop by Gorman Nature Center. We will also answer any questions you have to the best of our knowledge both on here and in person.

Do you have any pictures of Screech Owls? If you have any (either taken in the wild or here at Gorman Nature Center), I would love to see them. Feel free to email me the picture ( and I will post it on this blog (with your permission and name to give you the credit).

Also, are there any animals native to Ohio that you are interested in or want to know more about? Leave a comment to help me decide what my next topic will be.

Thank you for reading!!