History of the Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio) in New York City, 1867–2005

by Robert DeCandido

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Acopian Center for Conservation Learning, 410 Summer Valley Road, Orwigsburg, PA 17961


This paper provides a historical review of the occurrence, distribution, and changes in abundance of the eastern screech-owl (Megascops asio) in New York City, New York. From the late 19th century through the mid-20th century, this owl species was a common permanent member of the avifauna throughout New York City. By the 1960s, information about eastern screech-owls was much less common in New York City bird reports, suggesting the species had declined in the area. In 2005, this owl was believed to be breeding in three of five boroughs of the city but was common only on Staten Island. I discuss the eastern screech-owl restoration efforts in Central Park, Manhattan. Eastern screech-owls nested and fledged young in March 2002 and March 2005—the first confirmed nesting of this species in Central Park since 1949. However, the probability of their long-term survival in Central Park is uncertain. Recommendations are made to facilitate future releases of this species in New York City.

Key words: Eastern screech-owl; Megascops asio; New York City, Central Park; restoration; urban