Spectacled owl

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Spectacled Owl
Spectacled owl.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Animalia
Subkingdom Bilateria
Branch Deuterostomia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Infraphylum Gnathostomata
Class Information
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Aves
Sub-class Neornithes
Infra-class Neoaves
Order Information
Order Strigiformes
Family Information
Family Strigidae
Sub-family Striginae
Genus Information
Genus Pulsatrix
Species Information
Species P. perspicillata
Population statistics
Conservation status Least concern[1]

The spectacled owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata) is a large, highly colored owl species of the family Strigidae, and found throughout much of tropical and sutropical Central and South America. The owl gets its name from its bold facial markings, giving it the appearance of wearing eyeglasses.


Spectacled owls are large, broad-wing owls, with a length of 16.1 to 20.6, and weigh between 1 and 2.76 pounds; females are somewhat larger than males. The upper body plumage is a monochrome dark brown, with the wings and tail bearing pale gray-brown bands. A broad, dark brown band extends across the breast, the remaining underside of the trunk is solid pale yellow to yellowish reddish brown, with the legs feathered in whiteish-red-brown to the toes.

The face and head, including the facial disk, is predominately dark brown, but this is interrupted by a bold whitish or tan band under the chin, extending halfway on either side of the face. The same color forms distinctive eyebrows - the familiar "eye glasses" mark - extending downward on the sides of the beak to meet up with the chin marking.

The courtship and territorial calls of both partners is a succession of ascending and throaty tones, like "pok-pok-bogbogbogbobobo". Females have a slightly-higher pitch when making the same calls. They are sometimes referred to as "knocking owls" locally, after it was noted that their calls were more like knocking than hooting;[2] one author stated they were similar to the noise made by the great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major).[3]


  • Pulsatrix perspicillata boliviana; Bolivia
  • Pulsatrix perspicillata chapmani; eastern Costa Rica and Panama to Colombia, western Ecuador and northwestern Peru
  • Pulsatrix perspicillata perspicillata; eastern Colombia to Venezuela, the Guianas, Brazil and northern Bolivia
  • Pulsatrix perspicillata pulsatrix; southeastern Brazil (Bahia south to Rio Grande do Sul) to northeastern Argentina.
  • Pulsatrix perspicillata saturata; southern Mexico (Veracruz and Oaxaca) to western Panama (Chiriquí)
  • Pulsatrix perspicillata trinitatis; Trinidad (possibly extinct)

Some authorities consider the subspecies P. p. pulsatrix to be a species in its own right, referring to it as the short-browed owl (P. pulsatrix). The reasons for it are based on slight differences in plumage, territorial calls, and the fact there is no evidence of hybridization between this and other spectacled owl subspecies, despite clear overlapping of ranges.

Range and habitat

The range of the spectacled owl extends from southern Mexico over Central America and large parts of the northern South America. They inhabit rainforested areas of the tropics and subtropics with large and old trees, as well as savannas and grasslands bearing a large number of trees, and human-altered areas such as plantations with good tree cover. The species occurs from sea level to 4,600 feet elevation.


Spectacled owl in flight. A sill-hunting bird, their prey is frequently taken in ambush.

Prey consists primarily of small mammals, occasionally larger mammals up to the size of opossums; birds up to the size of pigeons and smaller owls are also taken. Small reptiles, caterpillars and other large insects are consumed as well. Hunting is almost exclusively at night, with the owls still-hunting from a perch as they wait for prey to come to them.


Breeding in the field has been rarely studied. What is known is that the owls nest within tree cavities or on strong side branches. The nest comprises two eggs which are incubated only by the female for about 35 days. The feeding of the nestlings is also largely carried out by the female, which is supplied with food by the male during this time. The young birds leave the nest at the age of about five or six weeks, and remain dependent on the parents for several months, sometimes for almost a year.