My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Rufous vs Gray

easc.jpg
From the Peterson Field Guide.

The Eastern Screech Owl is a species that have two distinct morphs and live within the same population (polymorphism). It is generally known that gray-morphed Screech Owls are more frequently found in the North and the rufous-morphed birds are mostly found in the South. Many publications will discuss this relationship with the rufous-morphed birds not being able to handle the colder winters and I know there are some studies are trying to prove that. I did find an interesting publication by Mosher and Henny (1976) who explains how the rufous-morphed Screech Owls oxygen uptake is greater than the gray-morphed birds when exposed to lower temperatures. I have also heard about the relationship with the different morphs and tree species that are found in the areas !! (Note how gray background with the rufous bird makes the owl stick out more!)

Screech by Jim Toner
Photo by Jim Toner

We regularly find the gray-morphed Eastern Screech Owls here in Allegany State Park and I have only once seen a rufous-morph bird within the area (was dead from a vehicle strike). Although, I am very sure that I am missing many of the rufous birds due to hearing more than I actually get to see. So you can believe how excited I was last week when a coworker showed me a photo of this rufous-morphed bird that he photographed in his front yard! He explained how he flushed the bird from the ground when he came home one evening. Then quickly ran into the house for his camera and found it to be very cooperative in allowing him to capture a few photos. I would like to thank Jim for allowing me to share this with everyone!!

Eastern Screech Owl
Gray – Eastern Screech Owl from Nov 2006

If you are one who watches football . . . . happy Superbowl Sunday to you!!! I am not a big fan . . . so maybe I will go outside and try call some Screech Owls in! The odds are that if I do call a bird in it will be Gray-morphed owl (if anyone is placing bets on birdbowl pools)!


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28 responses

  1. Okay you got me giggling there – thanks for the owl info. In my area I hear them a lot but rarely run into them. (I try to chase down the sound but with no luck.) I’d love any info on how you locate them so easily – my grandpa was gifted that way too. Meanwhile, your right your friend did a great job with the rufous screech. What a beautiful bird! I have never seen anything like it myself. Your shot on the eastern screech owl is fabulous – boy, just check out those beautiful eyes! Amazing.

    3 February 2008 at 5:24 pm

  2. naturespalette

    That first photo is hilarious, he’s so funny (and cute!) Owls are so hard to spot, I rarely see them around here. Lots of hawks and the like though.

    3 February 2008 at 5:43 pm

  3. I have had a thing for owls ever since I was a girl and we used to go to the Bird Banding station on the weekend. The ornithologist had a great horned owl that he always brought out at the end and showed us how its head could almost turn a 360. He also let us pet it, although we had to watch out for its beak. Such soft feathers! I also used to love to read a book called “Who Lives in a Field” that told the stories of all the creatures that inhabit a field…including the owls… It’s so interesting to be learning more about these beautiful birds!

    3 February 2008 at 6:00 pm

  4. Your pictures are a little more lively than mine:


    Cheers,
    Nick

    3 February 2008 at 6:22 pm

  5. Not football! Futbol! Hehe.

    3 February 2008 at 6:42 pm

  6. At least enjoy the half-time show! I will!

    I’d rather see owls, too.

    3 February 2008 at 7:17 pm

  7. @ Aullori – Glad I made you smile! I can’t say that I see them that often, but if I am lucky . . I can spotlight them after calling them in close! I like watching the sky for when they cross over!
    @ Naturepalette – thanks and I do hear more than see!! Hawks are great since they like to hang out around the roadsides!
    @ Rondi – how amazing and glad he let you see the Great Horned up close like that! They are such amazing birds!
    @ Nick – I have some dead pictures of other species here somewhere!
    @ Scienceguy – LOL!
    @ Mary- who is winning? I only get NBC and CBS with the antenna. Figures that this year it’s on FOX!

    3 February 2008 at 7:33 pm

  8. No reason you can’t read blogs and watch the Superbowl at the same time. 🙂

    New York is currently winning 10-7 with about 10 minutes left in the game.

    3 February 2008 at 9:19 pm

  9. Nice owls! I love them. I’ve never seen a real one in real life, just caged. 😦
    I am scheduled for an owl trip later this month though…wish me luck!

    3 February 2008 at 9:24 pm

  10. The Patriots lost so I’m a little bummed out.-Thanks for enlightening me about the Owls. Now it would be nice if I could see a few. Do you have any posts that give tips on how best to search for owls? The only ones that I’ve seen are great Horned and Barred Owl.-I did have supposed Short-eared flyby once.

    3 February 2008 at 10:43 pm

  11. Great post on owls. I’m sure hoping to see some this year.

    4 February 2008 at 12:39 am

  12. Pretty birds! We rarely see (or hear) them here.

    4 February 2008 at 6:27 am

  13. Tom

    Tom, any luck calling in a red screech owl? Very cool birds, I’ve not done much owling…What is the best way to see them? Do you call them in with a recording?

    Tom

    4 February 2008 at 7:19 am

  14. Lisa at Greenbow

    How interesting that they think the Gray morph is more winter hardy. I have seen both in our area. I will be interested to see if this holds true.

    In gardening we are right on the line between zones so it doesn’t surprise me that we get both Gray and Rufous morph birds.

    Sadly during our chirstmas count in the county south of us we found a vehicle struck dead Rufous morph ESOW. I just hate to see this with any bird but owls are so few and far between it is even more sad to me to see this.

    4 February 2008 at 8:15 am

  15. You’re luckier than we are – still no good owl sightings near us, although I think I heard one outside the window the other night. But the Owl Prowl is on Thursday – I hope we can go and see the saw-whets…

    4 February 2008 at 9:15 am

  16. Interesting – unsurprisingly, we have no ESOW here (and few WSOW for that matter). The rufous morph is quite striking!

    4 February 2008 at 11:39 am

  17. I hear screech owls all the time but have never seen them. Thanks for the post.

    4 February 2008 at 1:59 pm

  18. JLB

    I hear these owls all the time around my cottage (I’m in eastern PA), but I never get to see them. I think these owls sound rather like little ponies whinneying in the trees. Thanks for sharing this!

    4 February 2008 at 2:26 pm

  19. Oh my ~~ these pictures are gorgeous!! I love owls, but I never see them in the wild. One day I have to visit you so you can show me all the wonders of your area.

    4 February 2008 at 3:35 pm

  20. Hey. Just one question. It’s been bothering me for some time. You say that you take most of your photos with a point and shoot. First: What make and model? Second: How do you get those close pictures like of the insect without the picture getting all fuzzy and pixelated? Third: How do you take pictures of all of those animals that move quickly like deer etc.? Most point and shoot have rather slow shutter speeds. Thanks.

    4 February 2008 at 3:50 pm

  21. How tremendously interesting!

    4 February 2008 at 6:49 pm

  22. @ Karen – I couldn’t watch the Superbowl, I don’t pay for cable and only pick up NBC and CBS via the antenna. Thanks for the update!
    @ Chicago – you must see them for sure! Do go and you should be able to find one!
    @ Larry – I can’t believe it but they did loose! I don’t have any and my guess for seeing them is just getting out at night!
    @ Linda – sure hope you do! PI SP should be a good place to go! I have seen Great Horned and Barred Owls there during daylight hours!
    @ threecollie – I was amazed that they were much more common than first expected!
    @ Tom – I didn’t try calling them! I probably should have though! I use my giggle call but at times do give the speaker system a try! Both work just as good!
    @ Lisa – Ya, many times seeing them dead is easier than when alive! Sorry to hear though!
    @ Marty – Hope you can go find them and always great when an owl greats you! Great Horned Owls should be nesting here soon!
    @ Adam – Eastern ones are a little out of there way for your area! LOL
    @ Joan – I also see many more than I do hear! If I do it right, I can call them in and then quickly try spotlighting them!
    @ JLB – They very much do sound like a horse whinney! I love there gargle like sound best. Thanks for visiting!
    @ Lisa – thanks but have to give Jim credit for the rufous bird! You are welcome anytime you want!
    @ Scienceguy – Yep, I do! I am using the Sony Cybershot (older model). Most people think when using macro that the picture needs to be zoomed in! As long as your macro is turned on and zoomed all the way out, your picture will get in focus! Luckly, the Sony’s min focal length is less than a cm! Right lighting and time getting close allows you to capture just about anything! Just look at the Opossum clip I am about post!! Do note that 25% of the time my photos are taken with my 400mm lens/camera! But, don’t feel you need to purchase $2000 worth of equipment to take pictures of wildlife!
    @ Lana – thanks!

    4 February 2008 at 7:52 pm

  23. Agreed on the $2000 dollars, but what is this about macro?

    4 February 2008 at 8:03 pm

  24. Macro is taking pictures up close!

    4 February 2008 at 9:15 pm

  25. Thanks for the informative post, Tom. I hear screech owls fairly often, but see them only every once in a great while when they choose to come up near the house.

    5 February 2008 at 12:59 am

  26. @ Marvin – how great and just about how I see them! Thanks

    5 February 2008 at 8:11 am

  27. Grace

    I hear (not see) a lot more in my front yard and orchard than in the park. I love their toad-like trill more than the whinny call.

    5 February 2008 at 11:57 pm

  28. Marg

    These are neat-I haven’t really seen one-just heard them

    Jim’s photo if phantastic!

    7 February 2008 at 4:39 pm

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