top of page

NOTICE: This feature is a work-in-progress. If you encounter any issues, please e-mail us at

Spectacled Owl

Pulsatrix perspecillata


41 - 52cm

60 - 72cm

0.4 - 1.3kg

20 - 35 yrs





The spectacled owl is a large tropical owl named for the distinctive facial markings surrounding its eyes. Six distinct subspecies have been identified, with the short-browed spectacled owl possibly being a separate species. It resides in forests from southern Mexico through to Central America, Brazil, Paraguay and northwestern Argentina.

Least Concern




Its upperparts, head and upper breast are black-brown whilst the facial markings are white and the underparts a yellowish-ochre. It has a pale beak. Notably, it is the only owl in the Pulsatrix genus to have yellow eyes. The juvenile is very distinctive, being completely white apart from a chocolate brown facial disc.

What Does it Look Like?


What Does it Sound Like?


In Brazil, spectacled owls are known locally as "knocking owls", as their sounds are a guttural knocking with a popping effect: PUP-pup-pup-pup-po, POK pok pok bog bog bog bobobo. The male is the primary singer, however duets between pairs have been heard on moonlit nights. Young spectacled owls beg with a harsh, high-pitched keew.


It preys on nocturnal mammals, such as opossums and bats, but also preys on small monkeys such as tamarins. Invertebrates like caterpillars, crabs and large insects supplement the diet, as do medium-sized birds like jays or motmots. It scans the area from a perch before dropping with a quick pounce when prey is located.

What Does it Eat?


Where Does it Nest?


It nests in an unlined tree cavity with no nesting material besides a surface of rotting wood. Although they lay 1-2 eggs, if two chicks are hatched only the strongest will survive. It will leave the nest at about 5–6 weeks but cannot fly well; it will depend on its parents for several months and may be fed for up to a year once fledged.


It is found in much of Central and South America, as well as in Mexico. It is primarily a bird of tropical rain forests, in areas where dense, old-growth forest is dense. However, it may enter secondary habitats when hunting, such as forest edges. They have also been found in dry forests, treed savanna plains, plantations and semi-open areas with trees.

Where Does it Live?


What is its Status?


The spectacled owl resides in a very large range and is therefore considered Least Concern by the IUCN. Despite not having any natural predators, it occurs at low densities due to its slow maturation. This therefore makes it vulnerable to man-made habitat destruction, which caused the extinction of an entire race (P. p. trinitatis) on Trinidad.

Image credit:

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

bottom of page