Eastern Screech Owl: Otus
- Hatch year unknown
- Weight: 6 oz.
- Found in Lakeville, Minn., in 1998
- Car collision
- Un-releasable because of eye/head trauma
- Probably female
On November 22, 1998, a red-phase adult Eastern screech owl was admitted to the clinic after being found laying on the yellow line in the middle of a road in Lakeville, Minn. It was assumed the owl was in a collision with a vehicle. The owl had extensive eye injuries, presenting with blood in the anterior and posterior chambers and corneal ulcers in both eyes, as well as beak damage and abrasions on her wings and feet. She was also categorized as depressed due to behaviors of lying down with her eyes shut and not being very reactive. After seven months of observation and rehabilitation, it was determined that this Eastern screech owl was un-releasable due to the eye trauma she sustained. She was transferred to the education department as a tentative education bird at the end of June, 1999, moving in with Squeek, a gray-phase eastern screech owl. Otus’ name is in reference to the genus into which the eastern screech owl was classified at the time she arrived at The Raptor Center. When Carolus Linnaeus described the species in 1758, he placed it in the genus Otus, which encompassed two types of owls: screech owls and scops owls. However, as time went on, it became apparent to many taxonomists that screech owls and scops owls are not closely related enough to be placed in the same genus, and in 1848, screech owls were split off into the genus Megascops. Unfortunately, even ornithologists are not immune to the temptation of fads, because in the early 20th century the "cool" thing in phylogenetics was to clump taxonomic groups together, and in 1903, the American Ornithological Union (AOU) placed screech owls back into Otus. The preference shifted again due the availability of DNA sequencing data. In the late 1990s, a study comparing the sequences of cytochrome b in mitochondrial DNA for many owl species concluded that having scops owls and screech owls in the same genus was not justified. In 2003, the AOU put screech owls back in the genus Megascops.