Well, all ear tufts anyway. When you see an owl with its “ears” up, those are not actually its ears nor are they horns. They are tufts of feathers and have nothing to do with hearing. Ornithologists believe they may serve a couple of purposes.
One being to camouflage the owl, helping to break up the solid line of its head. Two, it is thought that they may be used as a form of communication between owls with position and movement of the tufts possibly indicating safety or danger.
While I have photographed eastern screech owls many times in the wild, this particular one is a captive bird. It is owned by a local non-profit, HawkQuest, and I had the opportunity to photograph it back in October. Such a cool little dude and the fall foliage behind it really made for a nice scene.