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Spectacled Owl
A Reference for North and Central American Owls

 The Spectacled 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 photos, a Central American range map and information to help identify and enjoy this beautiful owl. The Field Notes section includes information on nesting, habitat, behavior, vocalizations, description and identification.  To jump immediately to any of these sections use the Page Jump Links below.

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Spectacled Owl Photo


Spectacled Owl Photo


Spectacled Owl Photo

Old Gamboa Road
November 2008
March 2009
  Costa Rica
April 2002

Spectacled Owl Photo


Spectacled Owl Photo


Spectacled Owl Photo

January 2011
March 2009
Osa Penninsula
  Costa Rica
April 2008


FIELD NOTES and Range Map
Spectacled Owl - Pulsatrix perspicillata

Range Map  
The Spectacled Owl is a medium to large sized owl (13-15 in. in length). There is no other member of the Genus Pulsatrix nor any similar owl in North or Central America although two other similar owls of the Genus exist in South America.  It has very conspicuous white eyebrows and lores on a dark brown facial disk. Narrow white stripe around the upper throat divide the dark brown upper chest band from its head. Its stomach and chest are buff and its backside is dark brown. It has bright yellow eyes and a creamy yellow bill. The juvenile is whitish overall with a blackish facial disk.

 The Spectacled Owl inhabits dense tropical rain forests, gallery forests and shady plantations from sea level to almost 5,000 feet in elevation. Similar in its habitat needs to the Crested Owl although more tolerant to deforestation and requires sizable wooded areas for nesting and roosting. Often roosts in dense vegetation along streams. It is most often found hunting along forest edges and clearings or adjacent semi open savanna with large trees but may also be in the canopy. This is a resident owl and is not known to make any large movements.

 When hunting it generally perches on an open branch, leaning forward scanning for prey and striking with surprising agility (for such a large owl) either with a swift pounce to the ground or agile swoop to snatch prey from vegetation. Primarily feeds on vertebrates including small mammals up to the size of opossums, skunks and rabbits. It also will feed on birds, bats, rodents, large insects and beetles, frogs and larger crustaceans like crabs. Although mostly nocturnal (active at night) it occasionally will hunt by day and is frantically mobbed by jays and other birds.

 There are six recognized races (or subspecies) of the Spectacled Owl of which only two are found in Central America (three of the races are poorly differentiated and potentially invalid). P. p. saturata is the Central American race of Spectacled Owl that is found from Southern Mexico south through Western Panama. One other poorly described race P. p. chapmani is found on the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica through east Panama to Columbia, W. Equador and NW Peru. The other four races, P. p. trinitatis, P. p. perspicillata, P. p. boliviana, and  P. p. pulsatrix are all found in South America and the adjacent islands (Trinidad).

 Nesting season is in the dry and early wet season between April and June (September in Costa Rica and September - October in Panama). Lays 2 and rarely 3 eggs but usually only 1 chick survives to fledge. The young leave the nest at 5-6 weeks but will stay with the parents for up to a year after fledging. It nests in a large natural cavity in a tree.

 It has a deep descending, bubbling sequence: "PUP-pup-pup-pup-po" or "PUM-PUM-pum-pum" with successive notes weaker, lower and faster. At dusk, from a conspicuous perch, it also has a hawk like scream: "kerWHEEEER". The female has a slightly higher pitched voice than the male and the juvenile has either a higher softer "keeew", a loud whistle or gruff "juiiiu".

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