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Puerto Rican Screech Owl - Megascops nudipes

Formerly Otus nudipes

Calls - Megascops nudipes
Typical call © Mark Oberle

First classified by French naturalist François Marie Daudin in 1800, this bird is sometimes known as the "Cuckoo Bird" in the Virgin Islands.

[For help with terms used in the description, see parts of an owl. For general characteristics common to most owl species, see owl physiology.]

Description: Puerto Rican Screech Owls come in a greyish-brown and rufescent morph. They are nocturnal birds, and have a rounded head with no ear-tufts. The facial disk is indistinct, the eyes are brownish and the beak greenish-yellow. The eyebrows are lighter than the rest of their face.
Upper parts are spotted, slightly barred and streaked darker. Underparts are lighter then upper parts, becoming whiter towards the belly - individual feathers having dark shaft-streaks and cross-bars. The upper breast has many wavy, brown markings.
Flight and tail feathers are barred dark and light. Only the upper part of the legs is feathered.

Size: Length 20-22cm (7.9-8.7").  Weight 103-154g (3.6-5.4oz)

Habits: A nocturnal bird, hiding in dense foliage, thickets or caves during the day. Calls in the early morning and evening.

Voice: The male's main call is a short guttural quavering trill of 3-5 seconds duration. He also has another shorter trill which begins softly and rises in pitch and volume to a maximum and quickly fades away. The female's call is similar, but higher in pitch. The contact call is believed to be a soft, cackling gu-gu. They also make a loud coo-coo call, which is how it gets the name of "Cuckoo Bird" in the Virgin Islands.

Hunting & Food: These owls eat mainly insects and occasionally small mammals.

Breeding: Breeding season is believed to be April to June. They generally nest in tree hollows and cliff crevices. The female lays 2-3 white eggs, and is fed by her mate as she incubates them.

Mortality: No current information on longevity. Egg predation by Pearly-eyed Thrashers (Margarops fuscatus) have been a problem for these owls.

Habitat: Dense Woodland, thickets and caves.

Distribution: Puerto Rico, Isla de Vieques, Isla de Culebra, and adjacent Virgin Islands.

Distribution of Puerto Rican Screech Owl - Megascops nudipes
Distribution of the Puerto Rican Screech Owl Megascops nudipes

Status: Common on Puerto Rico, critically endangered on the Virgin Islands.

Original Description: Daudin, Francois Marie. 1800. Traité élémentaire et complet d'Ornithologie, ou Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux, 2, p. 199.

Subspecies: M. n. nudipes, M. n. newtoni


del Hoyo, Elliott & Sargatal. 1999. "Handbook of the Birds of the World: Barn Owls to Hummingbirds". Buteo Books
Duncan, James R. 2003. "Owls of the World: Their Lives, Behavior and Survival". Firefly Books
König, Claus & Weick, Friedhelm. 2008. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World (Second Edition)". Yale University Press
König, Weick and Becking. 1999. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World". Yale University Press

Page Information:

Page compiled by . Page last updated 2014-04-30 Owl Species ID: 040.250.000

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