Screech owls are carnivorous nocturnal birds of prey that can be found across the eastern half of the American continent. Screech owls are considered opportunistic predators because they adapt their daily food intake to account for the easiest possible source of nutrition. As a result, these birds can survive on a wide range of different foods. Feeding a baby screech owl can be a very difficult process because the birds tend to prefer live prey and require a constant source of food for the first few months of life.
Provide a natural environment that can foster proper hunting and nutrition for the birds. While the screech owls are very young they may be unable to hunt, but it is important that they have the capacity to transition into providing their own food as they mature. Ideal hunting locations are heavily wooded areas, wetlands and marshes, or other stretches of open land that host large populations of insects, small amphibians, fish and small mammals. If you are raising a baby screech owl in an environment that cannot provide adequate hunting and nutrition, you should look into sanctuaries that may be able to house and raise the bird in a healthier and more natural fashion.
Feed orphaned baby screech owls on a rigorously maintained schedule. Babies in the wild are fed by their parents every two to four hours. The screech owl has a very fast metabolism, and requires consistent feeding during growing phases.
Use tweezers to emulate the natural feeding process. Wild baby screech owls are fed by their parents until they are old enough to fly and hunt on their own. The parent owl will partially digest the food, then regurgitate it or drop it into the open mouths of the babies in the nest. Dangle the food above the babies, and allow them to reach for pieces and gulp them by their own volition. Do not attempt to force food into the babies mouths, as they could choke or bite you.
Prepare food for the babies before feeding. This task may be a bit gross for individuals that are squeamish, but the babies cannot properly consume a whole animal. Tear sections of meat into smaller portions to help the babies swallow. Many owls will respond poorly to food animals that appear dead. If your babies refuse to eat dead mice, chicks, or amphibians you may need to cut the animals into smaller pieces or expose the entrails so the birds can be certain of the safety and desirability of the food source. Live insects are a good option for particularly picky birds that refuse to eat other forms of meat that are already dead.
Never feed owls meat from animals that have been shot. Owls are very susceptible to lead poisoning and can die from eating shrapnel or pellets.
Raising an owl without the proper license is illegal in the United States. Many species of bird, including screech owls are protected by the Migratory Bird Act.
Jacob Stover is a writer and editor from Ann Arbor. He has been writing professionally since 2009. His work has been published in the "Wayne State University Literary Review." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and film studies from Wayne State University.