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Nature Notebook – Rufus and Otis

Rufus, one of our two eastern screech-owls at the nature center has been very talkative at the end of the workdays and can be heard close to five o’clock making a descending whiney call. We can’t decide if he is just communicating with his cagemate or if he is telling us he is ready for dinner.

Eastern screech-owls can be seen in two different color morphs, gray or reddish brown. Rufus is a reddish brown morph while Otis, our other resident education eastern screech-owl is gray.

Research shows that reddish brown morphs are found more in the southern parts of the range and gray are more common in northern parts but both readily interbreed. Both Otis and Rufus came from the Kalamazoo, MI area.

It is also believed that the rufous morph is more cryptic at night and humid, cloudy conditions and their feathers may be less insulative and require more energy to keep warm than the gray morph. Eastern screech-owls are found throughout the eastern US from Michigan to Florida and the plains states to the east coast.