Scavenging is a common behavior in many animal species and can increase the fitness of individuals and populations. Scavenging has been documented more commonly in recent years with advances in technology, including in difficult to observe avian species. Four North American owl species have been documented scavenging, and here we relate the first documented scavenging by a Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii), which was video-documented with a motion-triggered camera. The screech-owl visited a Virginia Opossum (Didelphus virginiana) carcass seven times over an 11-hr period, with the longest visit lasting 7 mins (mean = 3.14 ± SD 2.34 mins); during the visits the owl actively fed on the carcass. The most common prey of Western Screech-Owls are small mammals, insects, arthropods, and small birds. No mesocarnivore or large mammal has ever been detected in diet studies of screech-owls, though screech-owls have been shown to attack and kill prey larger than themselves. The importance of carrion in owl diets is largely unexplored, and the scavenging behavior of owls could be more significant than currently believed depending on its availability and the presence of competing scavengers. Further research is needed to establish the commonality of scavenging by owls, and its various ecological effects.
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Vol. 125 • No. 2