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Mottled Owl

Strix virgata


28 - 38cm

84 - 91cm

174 - 347g

8 - 10 yrs





The mottled owl (Strix virgata) is a medium-sized owl in the “earless-owl” genus Strix, although it is sometimes classified under Ciccaba virgata. “Virgata” means “streaked”, referring to the mottled appearance by which it gets its name. It has four known subspecies, including the darker colour morph Strix virgata virgata.

Least Concern




The facial disc is a pale brown with white “eyebrows”, whereas the chest and belly are an off-white with distinctive brown streaks. The crown and back are dark brown, mottled with whitish streaks. The feet and legs are a greyish yellow. The darker morph is overall a darker brown with the underparts being a rustier buff colour.

What Does it Look Like?


What Does it Sound Like?


Its calls are known to differ by region, with some (particularly around the Amazon basin) having a lower, deeper pitch, although the females’ are generally higher-pitched regardless. The hoot is a frog-like “gwho gwho gwho” used as a territorial call and often repeated around 3 times. Like most owls, the young are capable of hissing as a warning to predators.


It is known to feed on a fairly diverse range of prey species, suggesting it is opportunistic. However, it appears to have a preference for small mammals (mostly rats and – occasionally – bats) as well as insects such as grasshoppers and cockroaches. It may also target small reptiles like snakes or lizards. It hunts from a perch, looking for prey by the forest edges.

What Does it Eat?


Where Does it Nest?


It nest is usually inside a tree cavity at a height of around 10-15m, although they may occasionally re-use the nest of another bird. Between 1 and 3 eggs are laid and incubated for around 4 weeks. Only one or two chicks will be raised successfully – the nest may be predated by porcupines or coatimundis. Chicks are usually fledged within one month.


The range extends broadly from Mexico, south through to the northern countries of South America (Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana) to northwestern-to-central Brazil and northern Bolivia (surrounding the Amazon basin.) It can also be found along Brazil’s southeastern coast. It is found in woodland, subtropical rainforest and plantations.

Where Does it Live?


What is its Status?


The population is largely unknown, with only a broad estimate of between 500,000 and 5 million. However, it is believed to be decreasing, with further declines expected due to ongoing deforestation in the Amazon. The IUCN assesses that this may result in a 25% population loss over ~30 years, which may warrant a higher classification in the future.

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Disclaimer: Whilst we have worked to ensure the content on this page is accurate, any information included herein has been provided for entertainment purposes only and should not be used as a factual reference, including for conservational, biological, veterinary or other scientific uses, as it may not reflect the most up to date research or includes information that is unverified (or, where data is insufficient, has been based on assumptions of wild behaviors.) Species information has been compiled from a range of sources and the knowledge of the BOWC team. The use of content on this page without prior written permission from BOWC is strictly prohibited. Any photographs not owned by BOWC have been sourced under license with full credit given below the images used. Conservation status shown is as reported by the IUCN Red List. If you believe any of the information on this page is demonstrably inaccurate or has been used without proper accreditation, please e-mail

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