Measuring about nine inches in length, the purely nocturnal eastern screech owl comes in two color phases, the red phase and the gray phase. Intermediate brownish screech owls also exist. The gray phase is more numerous than the red phase, especially in the western edge of its range.
The red-phase screech owl is mostly rufous above and whitish below. The entire body has black and white streaks. The eyes are large and yellow. Two conspicuous, feathered ear tufts extend from the ear.
The gray-phase screech owl is mostly dark gray above and whitish below with many white and black streaks throughout the body.
The screech owl emits a number of noises and sounds including hoots, screeches, whistles, and barks. Screech owls nest in tree cavities but will also nest in man-made boxes.