Screech Owl

eastern screech owl
Eastern Screech Owl Courtesy Wikipedia Photo by Greg Hume

Each morning I have been waking just before dawn. To the left is a picture of what I think my alarm clock looks like: an Eastern Screech Owl.

Whoever named these birds ‘screech’ owls must have been writing for a tabloid accustomed to exaggerating the truth. When I think of the word screech I imagine someone screaming horror film style or tires braking suddenly on a highway. Chalkboard nails. Record scratches. The long e suggests urgency and shrillness.

The sounds I hear from the actual bird are more like a percussion instrument. It makes a kind of rattling sound. Like dry bones. A skeleton laughing. The dry humour you might hear in emergency rooms, I suppose. Check it out. Click here and go to the ‘monotonic trills’ if you want to experience the magic for yourself.

Just before dawn — I assume just before it goes to sleep — it kind of goes mad with delight. It sings and sings and sings. Remember when Dracula tells us about wolves, the children of the night … what music they make … blah.blah.blah … well, Dracula was dead wrong on this point. I have nothing against wolves but it is the owl who is the star performer of the night.

Like everyone else nearby, I listen and wait. There are lots of false stops. Eventually, some mourning dove will lose patience and drop a tentative questioning coo into the darkness. Finished, yet?

Its work done, the owl exits the stage and magnanimously allows the sun to rise. The day shift may begin.


13 thoughts on “Screech Owl

    1. That surprises me because I assumed they were ubiquitous. There are so many rats in cities that it would seem there would be a ample food source for them.


  1. the kookaburras like to think they are the first to wake and laugh or the magpies in full soaring song but there is always a few pips tweets and fidgets from the little shrubbery birds … to start the day rolling….


      1. I listened to the ‘screech’ owl which I would not have picked as an owl and screech does not do it’ s call justice. we have the who whoo varieties -the boo book or mo poke variety and there is even a barking owl that barks like a dog and screams and then there is the sooty owl that makes a whistle like a bomb dropping to the ground .
        what a world we live in eh !!!!


  2. Now that was awesomely descriptive. I felt like I was there. It really is a great thing to take time to listen to wonderful sounds in our natural. Thanks for sharing.


  3. I envy you the pre-dawn concert experiences. You might discover you are getting a dusk serenade as well as it is another time these little musicians are often out and about. Our local virtuoso seems to have relocated, and everyone in the house is agreed, it is a deeply felt loss. (You’re right – the name is misleading. Shall we rechristen them? Trilling Owls?)


    1. Trilling owls it is.
      hahahha I think I remember reading once that a certain mockingbird had you awake all night long breaking every noise ordinance in the city. Much as I like mockingbirds I can imagine that getting to be a bit much.


  4. I wake each morning to the sound of the dawn chorus with the odd virtuoso performance by the local farmers cockerel. I absolutely love it. Beats a digital alarm hands down. Lovely post. Thank you.
    Bright Blessings


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