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Balsas Screech-Owl
A Reference for North and Central American Owls

 The Balsas Screech-Owl is a very large and striking Screech-Owl with brown eyes (iris). In the North and Central America small owls only the much smaller Flammulated Owl, now separate in the Otus family, also has brown eyes . There is no known overlap within its range of any other Screech-Owl so mistaken identification is unlikely. The Balsas Screech-Owl is endemic to a small region of Central-Western Mexico. Here you can find photos, recordings and information to help identify and enjoy this beautiful owl. The Field Notes section includes a North and Central American range map and information on nesting, habitat, description and identification.  To jump immediately to any of these sections use the Page Jump Links below.

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Photo Gallery
Audio Recordings
Field Notes and Range Map 

 

PHOTO GALLERY
Click on the thumbnail to bring up each of the Owl photos.

Balsas Screech-Owl Photo

73K

Balsas Screech-Owl Photo

81K

Balsas Screech-Owl Photo

110K

Colima, Mexico
June 2001

Colima, Mexico
June 2001
Colima, Mexico
June 2001

Balsas Screech-Owl Photo

111K

Balsas Screech-Owl Photo

123K

Balsas Screech-Owl Photo

84K
Colima, Mexico
June 2001
Colima, Mexico
June 2001
Colima, Mexico
June 2001

RECORDINGS
Click on the sonograms to bring up each of the recordings.

Sound File
24K
Colima, Mexico
June 2001

This is the primary advertising call of this owl. These evenly spaced hoots are the most common call heard in the field.

FIELD NOTES and Range Map
Balsas Screech-Owl - Megascops (Otus) seductus

 
The Balsas Screech-Owl is, like most screech-owls, strictly nocturnal. It is one of the largest of the screech-owls. Length is about 10 1/2" (about the size of an American Kestrel). It is also the only screech-owl (excluding the much smaller Flammulated Owl that is in the Otus family) with brown eyes (iris) - all other screech-owls having yellow eyes (iris).
 It is limited in its range (endemic) to an area of Central-Western Mexico. It inhabits low-middle elevation (1800-4500 ft), dry thorn forests with scattered trees. It has no known overlap with any other screech-owl so it is unlikely to become confused with any other owl. It can be a very bold owl and is often readily found around the Colima (see "A Bird-Finding Guide to Mexico" by Steve N. G. Howell for specific locations) area. Nesting or the laying of eggs happens in June. This owl is quite vocal, responds well to play backs or imitated calls, and can often be seen in exposed areas (i.e. bare trees, fence posts...). The Balsas Screech-Owl has a "bouncing ball" call similar to a Western Screech-Owl although it is a bit deeper in tone and starts with slightly greater spacing between the notes. It also has an alarm "scream" call that is very bold.
 Because of its large (relative) size, overall plumage coloring, eye color, and white markings around its face, this owl could be mistaken for maybe the slightly larger Mottled Owl. The key and immediate factor to identifying the owls is of course their call but the Balsas is also quickly identifiable from the Mottled by its cross barring on the finer chest streaks and its ear tufts (the Mottled Owl has no ear tufts). The Vermiculated Screech-Owl is probably geographically the closest Screech-Owl found near the Balsas's range but not in the same habitat (preferring a moister tropical forest type habitat). The Vermiculated Screech also has yellow eyes (iris), is smaller, and has a much different call with many more notes that are delivered much faster and at a higher pitch.

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