| Mexican spotted owl|
Strix occidentalis lucida
|Subspecies|| S. o. caurina|
S. o. lucida
S. o. occidentalis
|Population||15,000 (2004 est.)|
|Conservation status||Near threatened|
The spotted owl (Strix occidentalis) is a species of owl found in the forested areas of western North America. Population declines in conjunction with logging have made this bird a poster-child for environmentalist causes.
The spotted owl is a medium-sized dark brown bird some 16 to 19 inches in length with a 42-inch wingspan, and weigh up to 1.6 pounds. Females are slightly larger than males. The bird is marked with small, white spots above - hence the name - while its underside is a pattern of white and brown mottling.
- California Spotted Owl, Strix occidentalis occidentalis
- Mexican Spotted Owl, Strix occidentalis lucida
- Northern Spotted Owl, Strix occidentalis caurina
Spotted owls require old growth, dense forest with a closed canopy. In the Pacific northwest the forest consists of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, or other large conifers, while in the southwest they chose pine-oak forests. Nests are previously-occupied raptor nests, squirrel or wood rat nests, or in small caves or ledges within steep-walled canyons.
Logging on private and public land has posed a significant threat to these birds, as they need old growth forest both as cover and as a hunting area. The species overall is listed as near-threatened by the IUCN Red Data List, with the two subspecies S. o. caurina and S. o. lucida listed as threatened. The arrival of the more-aggressive barred owl (Strix varia) to the Pacific northwest has also affected populations of the subspecies S. o. caurina, affecting nesting and hunting patterns to the point where a criticized Federal program to kill barred owls has begun. The one benefit to the program is toxin information; scientists have recently been receiving dead owls of both species to see if their prey animals have picked up toxins from rat poison put out by illicit marijuana growers in public land.