Eastern Screech-Owl

Megascops asio
Range Map

Eastern Screech-Owls are nonmigratory, and live east of the Rocky Mountains in North America. There are two color forms for these birds, called morphs. There is a gray morph and a red morph. Observers believe the color has less to do with subspecies variation than with adaptation to their surroundings. The gray color is helpful in avoiding detection in pine trees, while the red benefits them in deciduous woods.

Modern science lists five subspecies, but the jury may still render a different decision in the future about these classifications:

  • M. a. asio lives in Minnesota, southern Quebec, New England and south through Missouri, Tennessee and South Carolina.
  • M. a. maxwelliae lives in the southern prairie provinces of Canada and south through Kansas and Colorado.
  • M. a. hasbroucki lives in Oklahoma, southern Kansas and central Texas.
  • M. a. mccallii is endemic to south Texas and some researchers believe one day it will gain full species status.
  • M. a. floridanus lives in south Georgia, Florida, and other eastern Gulf coast states west to the Mississippi River.

My only visual encounter with these birds came while visiting Estero Llano Grande State Park in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (south Texas). My ears also met them during an event called the “Big Sit” at the National Butterfly Center in Mission (Texas) as part of a state-wide competition called the 25th annual “Great Texas Birding Classic”. The competition experience is one of my favorite memories gathered during my visits to Texas.

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