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Black-and-white Owl
A Reference for North and Central American Owls

 The Black-and-white Owl is very distinctive and unlikely to be confused with any other Central American Owl. It can found in both Central and South America. Here you can find video, photos, recordings and information to help identify and enjoy this beautiful owl. The Field Notes section includes a 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
Additional photos
Audio Recordings
Field Notes and Range Map 


Streaming Real Video Clips

Black-and-white Owl
Palenque, Mexico
March 2002


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

Black-and-White Owl Photo


Black-and-White Owl Photo


Black-and-White Owl Photo


Veragua, Costa Rica
February 2011

Carara, Costa Rica
February 2011

Palenque, Mexico
March 2002

Black-and-White Owl Photo


Black-and-White Owl Photo


Black-and-White Owl Photo


Orotina, Costa Rica
April 2008

Carara, Costa Rica
February 2011

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
June 1998

Additional Photos

Photo 1

Photo 2
Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 5
Photo 6

Click on the sonogram to bring up each of the recordings.

Sound File
Palenque, Mexico
March 2002

Sound File
Palenque, Mexico
March 2002

Sound File
Ixcan, Mexico
March 2002

This "agitated contact call" is given by the female and may be associated with territorial disputes.

This is a pair of owls calling with a primary advertising and territorial call. The first and third (last) lower call is the male and the middle (higher) call is the female. This is the most commonly heard calls in the field.

This is very simple contact call that may be repeated over and over.

FIELD NOTES and Range Map
Black-and-white Owl - Ciccaba (Strix) nigrolineata

Range Map  
The Black-and-white Owl is a medium size owl (15-16 in. in length). Its size is similar to the other medium sized owls like Barn, Long and Short-eared. There is no similar owl in Central America although the Black-banded of South America is similar and was once considered conspecific. The Black-banded does have a different call, slightly different markings (no solid black on the head, and white bars on its back) though.

 The Black-and-white Owl inhabits humid to semihumid evergreen and semideciduous forests, plantations and tall mangroves. It may be found near villages, forest edges and clearings, and woodlands near rivers or swamps. In Mexico it can be found from sea level to 3900 ft. in elevation, in Panama up to 6800 ft. and in Columbia up to 7800 ft. in elevation.

 The Black-and-white Owl is strictly nocturnal (active only at night). It feeds mainly on insects but will also take small mammals. It normally hunts from a perch but will also catch bugs and bats in flight, sometimes under artificial lights.

  Nesting season begins in late March and extends through May. It nests in tree holes, in the crotches of large bromeliads, sometimes among the epiphytes or orchids living on large trees, and even said to occasionally use old stick nests.  It usually has 1-2 eggs.

 The Black-and-white Owl has very conspicuous orange to orange-yellow feet and bill. It has a black face with white speckled eye brows and dark brown eyes. Its stomach, chest, neck and hind neck are white with thin dark brown bars. Its backside (or upper parts) is dark brown with a few thin white bars on the tail.

 The voice of this owl is similar to the Spotted Owl's. The pattern of the call is different but the tones sound quite a bit like those of a Spotted Owl. This call is described as "who-who-who-who-WHOW-whoh". The call has and rapid series of notes that increase in tone and volume then may have one final lower note. Other vocalizations have also been described. ** See the calls above. **

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