David Reads “Screech Owl,” by Ted Kooser

Eastern Screech-owl
Eastern Screech-owl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know it sounded strange to some of you when I said in my last post that it had been a long weekend, and I was ready for a break. But my true “weekend” doesn’t generally happen until Sunday or, as in the case of this present week, Monday. And boy, do I need it. I’ve been thinking tomorrow or Tuesday should include some wilderness and birding, but I have no firm plan at all as of yet.

And since I have birds on the brain, and since I mentioned Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Ted Kooser Is My President,” I decided to look at his website, TedKooser.net and see if there was a nice outdoorsy poem to read for this 14th day of my recording project for Poetry Month. Well, wouldn’t you know, there on his home page is a poem called “Screech Owl.” Perfect.

Have you ever heard a Screech Owl? Sometimes their calls are like trills or warbles, but I knew just what he meant when he used the word “whinny.” Sometimes it’s called begging, though I won’t get into the birds and the bees stuff too deeply just now. But I tell you, there are few things more lovely to hear when you are camping in Penn’s Woods, or in Ted’s case, Nebraska, than the sounds of one of these munchkins off in the trees somewhere in the distance, except perhaps two of them calling to each other. You can read up on these itty-bitty creatures of the night woods on All About Birds, and listen to their whinny call by clicking right here. More noises from larger members of the owl family at Lerner.org here.

Screech Owl

All night each reedy whinny
from a bird no bigger than a heart
flies out of a tall black pine
and, in a breath, is taken away
by the stars. Yet, with small hope
from the center of darkness
it calls out again and again.

by Ted Kooser

From his book Delights & Shadows, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

7 Comments Add yours

  1. John says:

    I’ve heard the screech owl sound, but never knew what it was… one learns so many things here! 🙂

    Have a good weekend…


    1. Yay! What a great comment. And I plan to relax. Been reading a lot. I’m glad you said that things can be learned here. What you said about hearing the owl sounds is part of what I love about birds. It’s a whole world going on around us, even in cities, and we (as at night with the owls) either can’t see it or don’t notice it. At least we don’t until something flashy and colorful flies in front of our faces. I think that’s how I got started in looking around. I’m not good with most bird calls. I’d like to be better. I used to go birding with a buddy who could pick out a call from tons of may warblers around us and ask if I had seen that particular bird before. He would then lead us toward the sound to find it. Yeah, I need to go looking and listening for warblers this May. 🙂


  2. slpmartin says:

    I have several types of owls on my property…one is a screech owl…so this poem was a delight to read and hear.


    1. Delightful! 🙂


  3. Scott says:

    Thanks for reading this great little poem. Something about the mystery of a screech owl seems to inspire verse. I just captured the sound of a couple myself here in southeastern pa. I look forward to hearing them at night.


    1. I’m so glad you liked it, Scott. Gorgeous capture, complete with a sturgeon moon!


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