Species: Otus asio, Eastern Screech Owl  •  Born: Unknown  •  Died: October 2017  •   Gender: Male  •  Disability: Broken Wing

‘Gandalf’ was hit by a car in Kentucky. He was transferred from a vet to the Liberty Nature Center with a pin in his broken wing (where he became known as Pinny due to his pinned wing). Unfortunately his wing did not heal and he came to the AEF in 2015, where he received his new name. He made his ‘Wings of America’ Dollywood debut in 2017.

Gandolf passed away from an injury in October 2017. He was a favorite among caregivers and will be deeply missed.


Eastern Screech Owls have been misnamed, because they don’t really screech at all. They have more of a wavering whistle. The Eastern Screech Owl is a short, stocky bird, with a very large head and virtually no neck. The colors of an Eastern Screech Owl vary from a reddish-brown to a grayish color. Their feathers are patterned with spots and bands that help to camouflage them when they are against the bark of a tree.

The ear tufts on top of their heads have nothing to do with their hearing; rather, they help to camouflage the bird when perched in a tree. The tufts, when erect, form a ‘V’ which mimics a forked branch in a tree, and in addition, when they erect the tufts of feathers, they are communicating with others of its species. Erecting the tufts also help frighten away potential enemies because it makes the owl appear larger.

In the wild, screech owls can live to be 10 years of age, and up to twice that in captivity.