Western Screech-Owl - Megascops kennicottii
State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Species lacks baseline assessment and monitoring data. The species may face threats to mature forest nest sites in riparian areas due to development, altered hydrology, and grazing, but how operational these threats are is uncertain. Thus, the species is most appropriately placed on the Potential Species of Concern list with a state conservation status rank of S3S4 until more information is available.
- Details on Status Ranking and Review
ScoreU - Unknown
ScoreF - 20,000-200,000 km squared (about 8,000-80,000 square miles)
Comment128,467 square kilometers based on Natural Heritage Program range maps that appear on the Montana Field Guide
Area of Occupancy
ScoreU - Unknown
ScoreE - Relatively Stable (±25% change)
CommentRiparian deciduous forests and woody draws relatively stable within +/-25% since European arrival.
ScoreU/E - Unknown, but believed to be stable with population, range, area occupied, and/or number or condition of occurrences unchanged or remaining within ±10% fluctuation
CommentNo trend data available due to lack of adequate survey/monitoring effort, but assumed to be relatively stable.
ScoreD - Moderate, non-imminent threat. Threat is moderate to severe but not imminent for a significant portion of the population or area.
CommentHousing development in riparian areas and altered hydrology and grazing leading to the loss of cottonwood forest regeneration, are the greatest threats to the species in Montana.
SeverityModerate - Major reduction of species population or long-term degradation or reduction of habitat in Montana, requiring 50-100 years for recovery.
CommentDeclines in mature forest nest sites will take a long time to recover.
ScopeModerate - 20-60% of total population or area affected
CommentA large portion (>20%) of riparian deciduous forests are decadent.
ImmediacyLow - Threat is likely to be operational within 5-20 years.
CommentThreat is not fully operational now, but some areas have been lost.
ScoreC - Not Intrinsically Vulnerable. Species matures quickly, reproduces frequently, and/or has high fecundity such that populations recover quickly (< 5 years or 2 generations) from decreases in abundance; or species has high dispersal capability such that extirpated populations soon become reestablished through natural recolonization (unaided by humans).
ScoreB - Narrow. Specialist. Specific habitat(s) or other abiotic and/or biotic factors (see above) are used or required by the Element, but these key requirements are common and within the generalized range of the species within the area of interest.
CommentNarrow Specialist. Uses a broad variety of mature deciduous forests, but rely on relatively large nest cavities.
Raw Conservation Status Score
3.5 + 0.0 (geographic distribution) + 0.0 (environmental specificity) + 0.0 (long-term trend) - 0.25 (threats) = 3.25
How Scores are Calculated
In Western Screech-Owls, tufts are present, eyes are yellow, the bill is black to gray-green or gray-black. The facial disk is gray and surrounded by a black border. Ventrally, they are a heavily marked owl with dark brown horizontal barring and vertical streaking, creating a uniform dark coloration. Dorsally, they are the same as ventrally, but with distinct white spotting on the shoulders. The size is eight to 10 inches and the weight is six to eight ounces. They have two calls. The first call is, "toot, toot, toot toot toot toot
" accelerating in tempo, similar to a bouncing ball. The second call is a trill.
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
The Eastern Screech-Owl in Montana has much lighter plumage and has a lighter bill ranging from yellow-white to yellow-green.
Western Hemisphere Range
Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
(direct evidence "B")
(indirect evidence "b")
No evidence of Breeding
(regular observations "W")
(at least one obs. "w")
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Western Screech-Owls are probably year-round residents.
Habitat is primarily cottonwood bottoms, but they may exist along the fringes of coniferous forests where the two habitats overlap.
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Prey is predominately small mammals and a few birds.
Territories are defended throughout the year (Cannings and Angell 2001).
Western Screech-Owls begin breeding in March. Nests are in natural cavities or woodpecker holes. Clutch size is three to seven. Incubation is approximately 29 days. The young fledge at approximately 30 days.
A cavity nester, the Western Screech-Owl is easily attracted to nest boxes. Throughout its range, the species is closely tied to riparian habitats. (Cannings and Angell 2001)
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Cannings, R.J. and T. Angell. 2001. Western Screech-owl (Megascops kennicottii). Species Account Number 597. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database
- Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
- American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p.
- Casey, D. 2000. Partners in Flight Draft Bird Conservation Plan Montana. Version 1.0. 287 pp.
- Dorn, R.D. and J.L. Dorn. 1994. Further data on screech-owl distribution and habitat use in Wyoming. West. Birds 25:35-42.
- Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp.
- Fitton, S. 1993. Screech-owl distribution in Wyoming. West. Birds 24:182-188.
- Hand, R. L. 1969. A distributional checklist of the birds of western Montana. Unpublished. Available at Mansfield Library, University of Montana, Missoula.
- Holt, D. W., and J. M. Hillis. 1987. Current status and habitat associations of forest owls in western Montana. Pages 281-288 in Biology and conservation of northern forest owls: Symposium proceedings (R. W. Nero, R. J. Clark, R. J. Knapton, and R. H. Hamre, Eds.). U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report RM-142, Fort Collins, Colorado.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp.
- Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar’s Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp.
- Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map.
- Sibley, D. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp.
- Skaar, P. D., D. L. Flath, and L. S. Thompson. 1985. Montana bird distribution. Montana Academy of Sciences Monograph 3(44): ii-69.
- Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p.
- Thompson, Richard W., Western Resource Dev. Corp., Boulder, CO., 1996, Wildlife baseline report for the Montana [Montanore] Project, Lincoln and Sanders counties, Montana. In Application for a Hard Rock Operating Permit and Proposed Plan of Operation, Montanore Project, Lincoln and Sanders Counties, Montana. Vol. 5. Stroiazzo, John. Noranda Minerals Corp., Libby, MT. Revised September 1996.
- U.S. Forest Service. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Agricultural Handbook 688. 625 pages.
- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Birds"