California Raptor Center

Spotted Owl

Scientific Name: Strix occidentalis
(Strix is Latin for “screech-owl” and occidentalis is Latin for ‘western’ from occidere ‘to fall’ or ‘set’ (of the sun) referring to the range).

Size: Length: 16-19in Wingspan: 42-45in        

Weight: Female: 548-760g (~1.2-1.7lb) Male: 518-694g (~1.3-1.7lb)

Lifespan: In the wild can live to 15 years or more and in captivity may live longer than 21 years.

ID: Females are generally larger than males, and have a higher pitched call. These owls are medium-sized with dark brown plumage, a round head, and large dark eyes. The head and hind neck have white spots, along with white mottling on the breast and abdomen. Depending on how thick the plumage is, the amount of coloration and white spotting varies. Birds from the humid climate of the coastal range are darkest, while those from the mountain ranges in Arizona and Mexico are the lightest with the most white spots. This difference in appearance is assumed to be an evolutionary adaptation to climate variation.

Hunting: They are skilled hunters that rely more so on acute hearing than eyesight. Catches are generally made by swooping down from a perch above and collecting the prey with sharp talons. Occasionally, smaller birds are caught on the wing in midflight.

Prey: Prey consists mainly of small arboreal or semiarboreal mammals, as well as birds, several species of bat, and large insects.

Breeding: The nest of a Spotted Owl is usually in a cavity, old stick nest, or clump of debris, and is located on cliffs or in canyons inside caves, on ledges, or in trees. The female lays 2 - 4 eggs, which are incubated for 30 days. The chicks start moving out of the nest at 5 weeks and learn to fly at 6 weeks of age.

Range: This species of owl is found only in western North America, from southwestern British Colombia south through the mountains of Washington, Oregon and California, the western slopes of Sierra Nevada and the southern Rockies. They are also located in Utah and central Colorado through Arizona's mountain ranges, New Mexico, extreme western Texas, and central Mexico.

Status: The status of this species of owl varies from region to region. In Washington it is endangered, in Oregon it is considered threatened, and in California, it is on the special concern list. This species receives protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and according to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (as amended), it has been listed as a threatened species. Their habitat is being destroyed rapidly by unrestricted exploitation, clear-felling, and logging of old-climax forests; the continued existence of this owl in its realized niche is threatened. Owl habitat has been reduced by 60% since the early 1800's.