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Spotted Owl

Strix occidentalis ORDER: STRIGIFORMES FAMILY: STRIGIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Near Threatened

In the 1990s the Spotted Owl was catapulted into the spotlight over logging debates in the Pacific Northwest. This large, brown-eyed owl lives in mature forests of the West, from the giant old growth of British Columbia and Washington, to California's oak woodlands and the steep canyons of the Southwest. At night it silently hunts small mammals such as woodrats and flying squirrels. Despite federal protection beginning in 1990, the owl is still declining in the Northwest owing to habitat loss, fragmentation, and competition with Barred Owls.

Calls

  • Calls
     
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Spotted Owls give up to 13 different hooting, barking, and whistling calls, although only a few are common. The owl's signal call—used by adult males and females to mark and defend territory, and by males delivering food to females—is a series of four hooted notes, with the middle two closest together. The hoots have a deep, pure tone, with females' voices higher than males'. To stay in contact, mated pairs also emit a hollow whistling sound that rises in pitch at the end. Fledged young give a similar high-pitched whistle to beg for food.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

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.

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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