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Spotted Owl Strix occidentalis


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Spotted Owl
credit: John and Karen Hollingsworth/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Strigidae, Owls view all from this family

Description ADULT Has rich brown plumage overall, adorned with white spots on head, neck, back, and underparts. JUVENILE Has fluffy plumage at first, but acquires adultlike appearance by fall.

Dimensions Length: 16 1/2 -19" (42-48 cm)

Endangered Status Both subspecies of Spotted Owl occurring in the U.S. -- the Northern Spotted Owl and the Mexican Spotted Owl -- are on the U.S. Endangered Species List. The Northern Spotted Owl is classified as threatened in California, Oregon, and Washington. The Mexican Spotted Owl is classified as threatened in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. The Northern Spotted Owl's habitat is the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest that are most-coveted by timber interests. Natural disasters such as fire, volcanic eruptions, and severe winds have also taken a toll on this owl's habitat. The Mexican Spotted Owl also owes its decline to the cutting of its old-growth home forests, as well as to wildfires. Changing the practices of the timber industry is the only hope for these old-growth forests and the animals that live in them. Because these forests are quite complex ecosystems that take hundreds of years to develop, they cannot be easily replaced.

Habitat Uncommon and generally scarce resident of undisturbed wooded habitats. Northern population of Spotted Owl is particularly threatened in Pacific Northwest by loss of old-growth forest to which it is tied; it is a conservation icon and its demise a testament to man's short-sightedness.

Observation Tips At well known and regularly visited sites where disturbance is minimal (e.g. in some Arizona canyons), roosting birds are sometimes indifferent to human observers, affording superb views.

Range California, Texas, Western Canada, Northwest, Southwest

Voice Utters a series of sharp-sounding, abrupt hoots, typically hu-hoo, hu-hoo-hoo.

Discussion Beautifully patterned owl with plump body, proportionately large head, and rounded facial disc. Sexes are similar.