Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis)

Spotted Owl

[order] STRIGIFORMES | [family] Strigidae | [latin] Strix occidentalis | [authority] Xantus De Vesey, 1860 | [UK] Spotted Owl | [FR] Chouette tachetee | [DE] Fleckenkauz | [ES] Carabo Californiano | [NL] Gevlekte 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

A large, dark-brown forest owl with a puffy round head. Large dark eyes (all other large North American owls except Barn and Barred owls have yellow eyes) and heavily spotted chest and barred belly
identify this reportedly endangered bird, which may eventually be displaced by Barred Owl.

Listen to the sound of Spotted Owl

[audio: Owl.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 112 cm wingspan max.: 116 cm
size min.: 42 cm size max.: 44 cm
incubation min.: 29 days incubation max.: 31 days
fledging min.: 34 days fledging max.: 36 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


North America, Middle America : West


Mature old-growth forests, conifers, wooded canyons.
Along Pacific seaboard, mainly in undisturbed old-growth timber, including Douglas-fir and redwoods. In Southwest, generally in forested mountains and canyons, especially where tall trees grow close to rocky cliffs.


Male defends nesting territory by calling at dusk and at night. Pairs typically use same nest site for life, but may not nest every year.
Nest: Chooses a sheltered site inside large hollow tree in deep forest, in cave or crevice in cliff, sometimes in old stick nest of hawks or other large birds. No nest built, makes simple scrape in debris in bottom of site.
Eggs sometimes 1-3, rarely 4. Whitish. Incubation is by female only, 28-32 days. Male feeds female during incubation.
Female remains with young at first; male brings food for female and young. After about 2 weeks, female hunts also. If humans approach nest, adults perch nearby but make no active defense. Young leave nest at about 5 weeks and fed by parents f
or some time thereafter.

Feeding habits

Mostly small mammals. Specializes on small forest mammals, including woodrats, deer mice, voles, red tree mice ( Phenacomys), small rabbits, bats. Also takes some small birds, reptiles, large insects.

Behavior: Hunts mostly at night, but also by day while nesting. Hunts mostly by watching from a perch, then swooping out to capture prey in talons. Prey is taken from the ground and out of trees, and bats may be captured in the air.

Video Spotted Owl


copyright: Seth Ames


This species has a moderately small population which continues to decline in northern and western parts of its range. As a result it is considered Near Threatened.
Strix occidentalis has a population of c.15,000 individuals in four subspecies: caurina has a minimum of 3778 pairs and 1,001 territorial individuals from south-west British Columbia, Canada, to north California, USA; the nominate has a minimum of 3050 individuals in central and south California, USA, and (formerly) Baja California, Mexico; lucida has a minimum of 777-1554 individuals from Utah and Colorado to Arizona, New Mexico and extreme west Texas, USA, and also occurs in Sonora, Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon to Jalisco, Durango, Michoacan and Guanajuanto, Mexico; and juanaphillipsae has been recently described from the State of Mexico. Mexican populations may be stable because habitat tolerance is combined with forestry activities that typically modify rather than destroy habitat. Most other populations are declining and, in some, the decline is accelerating because of clear-felling and selective logging. The species is close to extinction in Canada.
Spotted Owl status Near Threatened


Resident of old forests from southwestern British Columbia to central Mexico. Migration: A permanent resident in many areas, but some mountain populations move to lower elevations for the winter.

Distribution map

Spotted Owl distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *