Kotori is a male Western Screech Owl (Megascops kennicottii) who came to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital in 2014. He was found as an owlet on the ground and was brought in. It was believed that once he was older he could be released back into the wild. However when they tested his flight abilities they discovered he could not fly due to his flight feathers growing in and twisting. This twisting makes it so he cannot get the lift required to fly. This makes Kotori unreleasable.
Facts about the Western Screech Owl
Western Screech-Owls live in riparian zones (the green, vegetated areas on each side of streams and rivers) or urban/suburban areas with mixed coniferous and deciduous trees. They are cavity nesters; nesting in tree hollows, nesting boxes, or cavities made by other animals. They are secondary nesters and will not make their own cavity.
Hunting & Diet:
Wings: Another unique owl characteristic is that the front edges of their primary flight feathers are serrated like a bread knife. This breaks up air turbulence and allows them to fly almost completely silently. There are two purposes for this – for one, owls do not want their prey to hear them coming. The second reason is that owls depend so much on their hearing that any noise from their wings would hinder their hunting ability.
Facial Discs & Hearing: Like all owls, they have a facial disk consisting of stiff feathers around the beak and eyes that direct sound back to their ears. However, screech owls have a relatively small facial disk compared to their eye size. This is a clue that they rely more on sight rather than hearing to hunt. Owls with facial discs that are large compared to their eyes rely more heavily on hearing to hunt (for example, the Barn Owl relies mainly on its hearing). If a Western Screech Owl was put in a darkened stadium with a single mouse, it would need at least a candle’s worth of light to be able to hunt the mouse in that stadium (but only one candle would be sufficient for it to find the mouse anywhere in the entire stadium!).
All owls have several characteristics that make them unique among raptors. One is the asymmetrical placement of their ears. Owls’ ears are simply holes on the sides of their skull that are covered by feathers. The right ear is up and forward while the left ear is down and back. This adaptation allows owls to locate prey by creating a sound triangle (triangulating) and pinpointing exactly where the sound is coming from. This helps while hunting in very low light.
Mating & Nests:
They are cavity nesters; nesting in tree hollows, nesting boxes, or cavities made by other animals. They are secondary nesters and will not make their own cavity.
There are 3 types of screech owls in the United States: the Western Screech Owl – found West of the Rocky Mountains, the Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) – found East of the Rocky Mountains, and the Whiskered Screech Owl (Megascops trichopsis) – found in the Southwestern states and Mexico.
The Eastern Screech Owl is similar in color and size to the Western, but the Western has a darker bill color. The Whiskered Screech Owl has an orange tint to its eye color, rather than the yellow of the Western and Eastern Screech Owls. The screech owls’ color pattern ranges from a mottled grey and white to an orangey brown color. Their feather pattern allows them to blend in perfectly with the trees in their environment. They also all have “ear tufts” on the top of their head, which have nothing to do with their ears, but are actually just longer feathers that can be raised or lowered. There is some debate over what exactly owls use their ear tufts for, but some believe that they are used for expression or display purposes, while others believe that they are used to break up the owls’ outline and provide better camouflage. Contrary to their names, screech owls don’t screech. Instead they make a trilling “hoo-hoo-hoo” sound.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The Peregrine Fund