Spectacled Owl

Scientific Name: Pulsatrix perspicillata


Spectacled owls are dark with a creamy-yellow belly, a white patch on the front of the neck and a dark brown belt across the breast. The bird acquired its name from the wide broken circles of white around its yellow eyes. The juvenile, or so-called “white owl,” has the adult markings in negative with a black mask and a white head. Adults are approximately 17-18 inches in length; the males weigh 453-680 grams, the females are bigger and heavier at 680-900 grams.

Range and Natural History

The range of these beautiful, elusive birds extends from Mexico through South America. There is little known about this species due to its secretive nature. The dense, undamaged forest they live in helps provide the natural seclusion they seem to prefer. The deforestation of the rainforest has surely posed a threat to its future. Preferring to live near water, these owls can also thrive in drier savanna habitats. They seem to adapt to deforestation better than other owls, sometimes hiding in parts of the rainforest where most of the trees have been felled. Spectacled owls are not exclusively nocturnal and are sometimes seen hunting during the day. Usually they feed on small animals such as mice, crabs and various insects, and they have even been known to take opossums and skunks as well as some birds. A bonded pair of spectacled owls will often spend hours calling to each other. The female has a higher pitched voice that the male. The call consists of six or seven knocking or tapping sounds. Two eggs are laid, although only one chick usually survives.

Status in the Wild

Due to deforestation and habitat destruction, numbers in the wild are declining. However, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums maintains a North American studbook for this species, and in zoos, the spectacled owl population is flourishing.

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