Barred Owl is a similarly large, brown-eyed owl that lacks ear tufts. It has a larger range and is found throughout eastern North America; its range overlaps with Spotted Owl in the Northwest. Barred Owl is slightly larger, paler brown, and has vertical brown bars on the chest and belly instead of the Spotted Owl's dappling of large white spots.
Spotted Owls are classified into three subspecies, each inhabiting a different geographic range and distinguished by slightly different size, coloration, and markings. The Northern Spotted Owl—the subspecies at the center of debate over old-growth logging—inhabits forests from British Columbia to northern California. The California subspecies lives only in that state, while the Mexican Spotted Owl can be found from Utah and Colorado southward into Mexico. The more southerly the subspecies, the paler its plumage and the larger its white spots.
Find This Bird
Spotted Owls are rare and difficult to find. Like most nocturnal owls, your best bet is to find appropriate habitat (which differs among the three subspecies), and then patiently listen for their hooting calls during the night.