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Spectacled owl

Pulsatrix perspicillata

Description: Spectacled owls are unique owls, so named because of the white spectacles around their yellow eyes, highlighting their brown facial disk. The bill is cream colored. A white stripe around the upper throat divides the color of the body, with the chest being dark brown. The stomach is buff and the backside is dark brown. The coloring of the juveniles is the exact opposite – with a dark face and white plumage over the rest of the body.

Size: Spectacled owls are medium to large-sized owls and stand 17-19 inches (43-48 cm) in height. They weigh approximately 1.5-2 pounds (0.68-0.91 kg), with the female being larger than the male. They are the largest of the tropical owls.

Behavior: As with most owls, the Spectacled owl is nocturnal but may occasionally hunt during the day. It is easier to hear them than to see them, as they perch in the understory scanning the area for prey and may remain on perch for quite some time. Usually found singly, not a sociable species.

Diet: They feed on bats, small birds, insects and other small mammals, even crabs. Sometimes, they will even take on skunks and opossums. Once the prey is spotted, the very fast owl will swoop down, grab their catch and usually return to the perch.

Senses: They have extremely large eyes that aid with their vision at night, but can also see very well during the day. In owls, the eyes can account for up to five percent of the total body weight.

Communication: Male and female Spectacled owls have several distinct calls. Females make a loud screeching call, sometimes used to attract a mate. Males emit a knocking or tapping sound somewhat like the thud of a hammer or woodpecker hitting or pecking on a hollow tree. Both sexes emit a cat-like noise and a rhythmic series of low-pitched sounds that often accelerate in pitch and frequency.

Reproduction: Mating and nesting season varies by location, but usually occurs from January to August. They build their nest in hollow trees. Normally, two white eggs are in each clutch, but only one usually survives. Incubation lasts approximately 36 days. Chicks fledge (begin to fly) about six to eight weeks after hatching but may remain with their parents for one year.

Habitat/range: These resident birds prefer to live near water, dense tropical rainforests and woodlands. They are found throughout southern Mexico to Central and northern South America.

Status: Listed by CITES as Appendix II; Least Concern (LC) by the IUCN. This species is more tolerant of deforestation than other owl species, but if the current rate of habitat loss continues, they could become severely threatened.