Mexican Spotted Owl

Strix occidentalis lucida

mexican spotted owl picture

Unlike most owls, Mexican spotted owls have dark eyes. The Mexican spotted owl is an ashy-chestnut brown color with white and brown spots on its abdomen, back and head. The spots of this subspecies of spotted owl are bigger than the spots of the other two subspecies, California and Northern spotted owls, making the Mexican spotted owls appear lighter than their relatives. Their brown tails are marked with thin white bands. This owl is one of the largest owls in North America.

Height 16-19 inches
Length 17 inches (wingspan of 42-45 inches)
Weight 1.2-1.4 lbs; males smaller than females

Lifespan 16-17 years in the wild

Diet

Wood rats, mice, voles, rabbits, gophers, bats, birds, reptiles and arthropods

Population

In the U.S., there are an estimated 2,106 Mexican spotted owls. Numbers in Mexico are also dangerously low.

Range

Mexican spotted owls have the largest geographic distribution of all spotted owl subspecies. They can be found in forested mountains and canyons from southern Utah and Colorado to the mountains of Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas and even into the mountains of northern and central Mexico.

Behavior

Mexican spotted owls inhabit forested mountains and canyons with mature trees that create high, closed canopies, which are good for nesting.  They prefer old-growth forests, and the distribution of spotted owls correlates with the distribution of forest land that has been protected from destruction and logging.  Spotted owls remain in one place unless harsh winters and heavy snows force them to move downslope in mountainous regions.  In milder areas, winter ranges may expand to increase prey availability. They are described as “perch and pounce” predators, typically locating their prey from an elevated perch by sight or sound, then pouncing on the prey and capturing it with their talons.

Reproduction
Mating Season Mid February to March
Gestation Around 2 months
Clutch size 2-4 eggs
Most nest sites are natural tree cavities, although Mexican spotted owls also use caves, potholes in cliff ledges and stick nests built by other birds. The young leave the nest at 32-36 days old to perch on surrounding branches, and can fly short distances at 40-45 days.  Three weeks after leaving the nest, the young can use their talons to hold and tear prey on their own.  Survival rate for the young is low.