M. kennicottii as the Predator:

M. kennicottii is a carnivore and eats small mammals and insects like it’s fellow strigiformes (Animal Diversity). The western-screech owl has been found to prey on small animals including mice, shrew, birds, insects, fish, worms, and occasionally even prey on birds or mammals of a bigger size (considering the western screech owl is about the same size as a potato, being larger is not difficult) (Cannings and Davis 2007). To learn more information about the organisms that live in the same area and that serve as a likely meal for the M. kennicottii, click on the links below and they will take you to websites that have been done by other students at UWL. Animals that are known prey of owls include: western fence lizards, meadow voles, earthworms, pack rats, grasshoppers, and pocket gophers.  


The mechanism of how an owl eats is rather interesting. Instead of chewing food before swallowing and digesting the food to absorb nutrients, owls swallow their food whole (yes that means they swallow the bones, fur, and everything!) and later regurgitate the components they cannot digest into pellets (Animal Diversity). Researchers have analyzed the pellets of this tiny screech owl to determine exactly what organisms that particular owl has mainly been eating (Canning and Davis 2008). They found that most of the organisms that the western screech owl in British Columbia ate mainly meadow voles, deer mice, and a lot of beetles (Cannings and Davis 2008). M. kennicottii has also been observed to catch its prey by scavenging which is when the predator eats food that is already dead (Allen and Taylor 2013). Effects of scavenging on owls with regards to humans is discussed below under the “Interactions with Humans” paragraph, so make sure to keep reading! For further more information about other ways the Western-Screech owl attains food,  read the form and function page to learn more about some neat traits that allow for this tiny bird to be a fine predator!

M. kennicottii as the prey:

It is easy to think that all owls are at the top of the food chain but sadly enough, this cute, fluffy owl is a hunted species. M. kennicottii has been observed to be caught by the great-horned owl (Bubo virginianus) as well as the Barred owl, (Strix varia) both of which are much larger than M. kennicottii (Cannings and Davis 2007).  Other predators of owls that live in the same area as the Western-Screech owl include bald eagles, golden eagles gopher snakes, crows, raccoons and occasionally even small bats (Gehlbach 2003). Though it seems sad that this adorable owl plays a role as prey, it is an important aspect of maintaining balance in their ecosystems.

Photo permission from Dave Moorhead. Interactions with Humans

Unfortunately, humans can have a negative interaction with  M. kennicottii. Urban development has torn down forests which has invaded living space for the owls as well as limited living space for their prey (Cannings and Davis 2007).  The destruction of homes for M. kennicotti and it’s prey, has caused the population to become scarce and they are seen as an endangered species in Canada. They are not officially listed as an endangered species in the United States, but their population is still dropping (Cannings and Davis 2007). The owls naturally dwell in open cavities in trees but because trees have to be cut down for urban development, the owls have been forced to find other places to call home. The Western-Screech owl will make home to any open cavity, even if that means a cardboard box. If you live in the area and want to help these little guys out, these owls are friendly and not scared of humans so leaving out any box, even if it is an old T.V. box, can serve as a home for them (Cannings and Davis 2007). As stated in the paragraph above,  M. kennicottii has been seen to scavenge for food and that means that they will eat food that has already been killed. Road kill is a prime example of what this owl will scavenge. Western-Screech Owls have been known to be hit by cars as they try and scavenge road kill off the sides of roads ( Weidensaul 1997). Next time you are driving on the road, make sure to watch out for predators that may be searching the roads for food!

For more information about human interactions with owls and what you can do to help them, explore this website!


M. kennicottii though small in size will occasionally hunt larger songbirds (Animal Diversity). This can lead to “mobbing” which can be a fatal situation for the owl because other songbirds that live in the area can detect when fellow bird is being threatened, resulting in the owl being attacked right back by the birds (Animal Diversity). Mobbing is a defense mechanism for the songbirds and is an educational tool for the young songbirds to be familiar with what types of organisms are predators to flee from (Ehrilich 1988).

Go back to the homepage or continue to read more facts about the Western Screech Owl.