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Mottled Owl
A Reference for North and Central American Owls

 The Mottled Owl is a common Owl along much of range in Central and South America. It can be quite bold and will not only respond to imitations and playbacks of it's own call but will also come in to playbacks of smaller owls too. Here you can find 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 classification.  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 


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

Mottled Owl Photo


Mottled Owl Photo


Mottled Owl Photo


West of Volcan,
January 2011

  Costa Rica
March 2011
San Blas
March 2004

Mottled Owl Photo


Mottled Owl Photo


Mottled Owl Photo

 Costa Rica
April 2008
San Blas
March 2004
Laguna Belgica
  Chiapas, Mexico
March 2002

Photo 1

Photo 2
Photo 3
Photo 4

Photo 5

Photo 6
Photo 7
Photo 8

Use the sound bar play controls to play each of the recordings.

Sound File
San Blas, Mexico
March 2004

Sound File
San Blas, Mexico
June 2001

Sound File
Ixcan, Mexico
March 2002

This is a pair of owls with the deeper male owl calling first then the female responding. These calls are both commonly heard in the field and they are considered to be location calls.

This is a pair of owls with the main owl calling with a primary advertising and territorial call. Both this and the low single note second owl's call are commonly heard in the field.

This is a pair of owls. The first call is a male's primary location and territorial call. The second vocalization is the female's "agitated contact call" and it may be associated with territorial disputes.

FIELD NOTES and Range Map

Mottled Owl - Ciccaba (Strix) virgata

Mottled Owl Range Map The Mottled Owl can be found from Northern Mexico well down into Brazil and Argentina in South America. Its habitat is very extensive and diverse. It ranges from dry thorn forests to humid evergreen jungles. It inhabits elevations between sea level and 7500 feet and is often quite abundant within it's range.
 The Mottled Owl is midsize, 13 - 15 inches in length (about the size of a Sharp-shinned Hawk), and strictly nocturnal. It has a varied diet consisting of large insects and beetles, small mammals and birds, snakes, lizards, salamanders and frogs. It may be attracted to artificial lights and is considered an opportunistic feeder. It mostly hunts from a perch, often along a forest edge.
 Recent changes to taxonomic classification for both Black-and-White and Mottled Owls put these two in a separate classification in the Ciccaba genius separating them from the Strix genius where similiar owls like the Spotted, Barred, and Fulvous Owls are still classified. These are all larger than the Mottled Owl (if you happen to see them sitting together). The Barred and Fulvous owls have distinguishing horizontal bars on their throats and the Spotted Owl has horizontal bars on its throat and chest. The Mottled Owl has vertical chest and throat streaks and its white backside markings are much less extensive than these others. All of these owls have brown eyes (iris). They also all have distinctive calls.
 The Mottled Owl usually lays 1 to 2  eggs between February and May. It generally nests in a hole in a tree or in the top of a broken off palm and sometimes even in vacant nests of other birds. It is resident (other than juvenile dispersals) and not believed to make any migratory movements.

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