• Barn Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl
    Eastern Screech
  • Elf Owl
  • Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
    Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Great Grey Owl
    Great Grey
  • Great Horned Owl
    Great Horned
  • Long Eared Owl
  • Northern Hawk Owl
    Northern Hawk
  • Northern Pygmy Owl
    Northern Pygmy
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
    Northern Saw-whet
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Snowy Owl
  • Spotted Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
    Western Screech
  • Western Screech Owl
    Whiskered Screech Owl

SPOTTED OWL (Strix occidentalis)

spotted owlHave you ever been to the famous Redwood forests of California or the Pacific Northwest? Many people visit these forests each year to stare in awe at the enormous old-growth trees. Many of the trees in these areas are hundreds of years old, and some reach astounding sizes, with heights of over 350 feet and diameters of 26 feet around.

It’s not only humans who appreciate these forests; a special species of owl makes its home there too. The Spotted Owl has become world-famous in recent years simply because of its location. Spotted Owls live mostly in the large, moist forests of the west and rely upon old-growth trees for nesting. Though these trees are appreciated for their beauty and majesty, they are also highly-valued in the timber industry. This nocturnal owl became the subject of controversy when people realized that logging was having a negative effect on Spotted Owl populations.

Fortunately, many groups and individuals are working to protect the Spotted Owl by conserving the old-growth forests that these owls rely upon. With luck, these dark-eyed owls of the night will someday be able to make a come-back in the western forests they call home. 

Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

  • A medium-sized brown owl with dark eyes and a yellowish-green beak

    Males: chestnut to chocolate brown with white spots over most of its body; color is darker in the Northwest and paler in the southwest

    Females: same as males

    Young: light brown with darker barring
  • Female slighter larger and heavier than male

    Height: Males 41-48cm (16.1-18.9 in), Females 41-48cm (16.1-18.9 in)

    Weight: Males 520-700g (1.1-1.5 lb), Females 550-760g (1.2-1.7 lb)

    Wingspan Both: ?

  • Range: in North America only; west coast states, southwest states, and western Mexico

    Habitat: mature and old-growth coniferous forests, wooded canyons, and steep, rocky canyons

  • Usually small to medium-sized mammals such as flying squirrels, woodrats, mice, voles and snowshoe hares; also invertebrates and birds (including smaller owls)
  • A variety of calls; able to imitate neighboring Spotted Owls

    Males: a bark-like call, “ow!-ow!-ow!-ow!”; a four note “hoo---hoo-hoo---hooo”; a hollow Whistled, “cooo-weep”

    Females: females also use the “hoo---hoo-hoo---hooo” and “cooo-weep”

  • Nest Site: cavity nester; usually nests in holes in trees, but sometimes cliffs, cave entrances, or abandoned nests of Crows or Golden Eagles; chooses shady nest sites

    Eggs: 1-4 white to pearl-gray eggs

    Incubation: 28-32 days
  • Nocturnal; hunts from a perch and pounces on prey; also grabs arboreal prey from limbs or branches; kills prey by severing the backbone

Spotted Owl Range Map

Spotted Owl Range Map

Spotted Owl Audio

Spotted Owl Facts

Other Names: Mexican Spotted Owl, Mountain Spotted Owl, Mountain Forest Owl
Family: Strigidae
Closest Relative: Barred Owl

Conservation Status

Nominate species Strix caurina and Strix lucida Threatened under U.S. Endangered Species Act, Strix occidentalis is listed as a Species of Special Concern in California, Strix caurina listed as Endangered in Canada, and Strix lucida is listed as Threatened in Mexico.