Red Phase Western Screech-Owl


Red Phase Western Screech-Owl photographed by P. Deviche and shared with permission

Considered Rare in Alaska, Western Screech-Owls seem to be at least Uncommon around Sitka. Though they are infrequently seen by the general population due to their nocturnal habits, they can be heard at night (and occasionally during the day) throughout the year in the forests, and even some neighborhoods. Starrigavan seems to be an especially good place to listen for them, but they’re also reasonably common in the vicinity of the Sheldon Jackson campus and Totem Park. (Back when SJC was open, I heard from students that they routinely saw them around 10pm near the student center as they were leaving due to its closing for the night.)

After first hearing of these photos of a red phase Western Screech-Owl some time ago, I was excited to finally see them when they arrived in my inbox recently. Earlier this fall, Ryan, local bird enthusiast and park service education specialist, shared a story of some photos taken by a co-worker’s father who had been visiting during the summer. I don’t have all the details, but he was about halfway to Medvejie from the gate at Herring Cove when a couple of owls flew up into a tree beside the road. He was able to get some good photos of one bird that appeared to be a red phase of the Western Screech-Owl. I didn’t remember having heard of a red phase Western Screech-Owl previously, but it didn’t take long to find the owling.com account of Western Screech-Owl which indicated there are two color morphs. The red phase is said to only occurs in coastal British Columbia and Alaska, but even here it is not typical.

Seeing the photos for the first time, it was easy to be impressed by how cooperative the owl had been. I was very intrigued by the much redder look (compared to the one I’ve seen best) as well as it being out and about at mid-day, and thought others would be interested as well, and maybe some people have their own stories they can share.

I am curious what other screech-owl experience people have. Have you seen them during the day? If so, when, where, and what were they doing? Have you seen any that were this red before? I would be interested to know – please leave a comment or send me an e-mail (sitkanature@gmail.com).

Special thanks to Ryan C. for telling me about this in the first place, L. Deviche and P. Deviche for passing the photos on to Ryan, and to P. Deviche for giving me permission to share his photos. Thanks!


Red Phase Western Screech-Owl photographed by P. Deviche and shared with permission

About matt goff

I am an aspiring naturalist who seeks to learn all that I can about the more-than-human aspects of this place that is my home.
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2 Responses to Red Phase Western Screech-Owl

  1. Anonymous says:

    What a great shot! That bird was the one from between Medvejie and the gate at Herring Cove? This is the reddest bird that I’ve ever seen photographed or even heard of. Northern populations are supposed to have more ‘red’ individuals, but I honestly thought that red birds were just colourful brown birds until I saw this. Very very cool!

  2. matt goff says:

    Yes – the photograph was taken between Medvejie and the gate at Herring Cove. It’s a great sighting, and I hope to see one like this someday also!

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