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Spectacled Owl

Scientific Name: Pulsatrix perspicillata

Spectacled owls are the largest tropical owl species. They are characterised by “spectacles” made of white feathers around their eyes and throat. The rest of their plumage is dark brown except for a creamy coloured breast and abdomen.

These owls live near to water in the tropical forests of Central and South America. They are mostly a nocturnal species hiding low in the foliage to prevent detection. Males and females have different calls. The male call sounds like a hammer hitting a hollow tree that gets progressively quieter. Females have a screech call that is mainly used to attract males during the breeding season.

Breeding occurs at the start of the wet season. Nests are built inside tree cavities where the female lays two eggs. Spectacled owls are a monogamous species, forming long term pairs, and will share the parenting of the owlets. It is usual for only one chick to survive. It will leave the nest at five to six weeks of age but is still unable to fly at this point. Owlets remain with their parents for the first year of their life.

The majority of the spectacled owl diet is made up of mice and insects. They are fast hunters swooping down onto prey before quickly returning to their perch. Insects are plucked directly off vegetation. They will also take larger mammals such as bats and possums.

Population numbers of spectacled owls in the wild remain high. They are classed as Least Concern by the IUCN and appear to have no immediate threats. As with any rainforest species, habitat loss will have some impact on populations especially if prey species are heavily affected.

Key Facts:

  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Distribution: Central America, Northern South America
  • Habitat: Tropical Forest
  • Diet: Insects, Small Amphibians, Small Mammals, Small Rodents
  • Height: 43 – 46cm
  • Weight: 450 – 900g
  • No. of young: 1 – 2
  • Life Span: 35 years