Screech owls have prominent, wide-set feather tufts with bright yellow eyes. They have different brownish hues with whitish, patterned undersides. This coloration helps them get camouflaged against the tree bark. They have well-developed raptorial claws and curved bills. They use them as a tool to tear their prey into pieces that are small enough for them to swallow. They tend to carry their prey to the nest and then eat it.
Screech owls are primarily solitary. They are known as a “sit and wait” predator.
During the late-winter breeding season, however, males make nests in cavities, sometimes reusing abandoned nests of other animals, to try to attract females. The females select their mate based on the quality of the cavity and the food located inside. During the incubation period, the male feeds the female.
The normal territorial call is not a hoot as with some owls, but a trill consisting of more than 4 individual calls per second given in rapid succession (although the sound does not resemble screeching or screaming).