Mottled Owl (Strix virgata)

Mottled Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Strigidae | [latin] Strix virgata | [authority] Cassin, 1850 | [UK] Mottled Owl | [FR] Chouette mouchetee | [DE] Sprenkelkauz | [ES] Carabo Cafe | [NL] Bonte Bosuil


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Strix are the wood owls. They are medium to large owls, having a large, rounded head and no ear-tufts. The comparatively large eyes range from yellow through to dark brown. Colouring is generally designed fro camouflage in woodland, and a number of the member of this genus have colour phases. There are 20 species scattered practically throughout the globe with the exception of Australasia, the South Pacific and Madagascar, where the genus Ninox takes its place. There being no clear generic differences between Strix and Ciccaba genera, and DNA evidence suggesting very close relationships, many authorities now merge the latter into the former.

Physical charateristics

Strix virgata individuals are medium-sized owls with brown eyes. They are mostly dark except for light brown facial markings. Mottled owls have yellow-grey to blue-grey bills and their toes are greyish-yellow. Their dorsal markings are much less noticeable than the vertical streaks on their chest and throat. They look larger than they are because of their thick feathers.

Listen to the sound of Mottled Owl

[audio: Owl.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 29 cm size max.: 38 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 2  


Latin America : widespread


Inhabiting elevations between sea level and 2500 meters, mottled owls are often quite abundant within their range. Their habitats are extensive and diverse; they can live in a wide variety of forest and thicket edge, tropical rainforest, dry thorn forest, tropical lowland forest, pine-oak woodland, and humid evergreen jungle. They can also live in areas with scattered trees, often close to towns and villages.


Strix virgata have smaller clutches than ecologically similar or closely related species. This species usually lays 1 to 2 eggs between February and May. Mottled owls usually nest in holes of trees, tops of broken off palm and occasionally in empty nests of other birds.

Feeding habits

Strix virgata individuals feed on a diverse diet including large insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, and cockroaches. They also feed on small mammals, birds, snakes, lizards, salamanders, and frogs. They are considered opportunistic feeders as they may be attracted to artificial lights. Mottled owls primarily hunt from perches which can be found along a forest edge.
Mottled owls have keen vision, hearing, and maneuverable flight, contributing to their success as predators. Although they lack color vision, these owls can rotate their heads to see in different directions. These owls also have sensitive ears that allow them to pinpoint sound sources in total darkness. Still, their ranges of hearing are not wide and contain deaf spots. Their wing feathers have adapted to dampen sound during flight, so they can approach their prey without being heard.

Video Mottled Owl


copyright: J. del Hoyo


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Strix virgata is widely distributed throughout the Nearctic and Neotropics, from northern Mexico to Brazil and Argentina. In Suriname a very rare visitor of the coastal plane.
Mottled Owl status Least Concern


Resident throughout range.

Distribution map

Mottled Owl distribution range map

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