Found in forests from southern Mexico to Argentina, this owl was known to the Aztecs for sounding like “tiles clinking together”. Instead of hooting, they primarily produce a rapid knocking or tooting sound. Because of this call they are called “Coffin Makers” in parts of their range. Imported to England more than 150 years ago, it has long been a popular bird in captivity, and has bred in a number of collections, including the DWA. Young birds have a black mask that eventually retracts to the adult’s face pattern.
In zoos, colonies of this species are like yeast — a few sent to another zoo soon reproduce to the carrying capacity of their exhibit, and more colonies can be established from there. From a few importations more than 30 years ago, there are now more than 6,000 of these fruit-eating bats distributed among more than 30 North American collections. This is a widespread species, found from Mexico to Paraguay. In the Mayan epic, the Popol Vuh, a bat, Zotz, stole the head of the Hero God Hunahpu for the Gods of the Underworld to use in a ballgame.