The Middle American Screech Owl is a medium-sized screech owl with small ear-tufts and yellow eyes. Greyish and red morphs are known to exist. It is also known as the Guatemalan Screech Owl.
Photo Gallery (3 pictures)
Description: Grey morph: The facial disc is greyish-brown with fine vermiculations. The rim around the disc consists of a fine
row of distinct blackish spots. Eyebrows are whitish, and eyes are yellow. Bill and cere are greenish. Ear-tufts are short, pointed and relatively dark.
The crown is similar to the back, but blackish markings are broad and prominent on the upper edges of feathers, giving a lightly barred appearance.
The hind neck has a pale border that is not prominent. Upperparts are dark greyish-brown with blackish shaft-streaks, cross-bars, flecks and
vermiculations. Scapulars with blackish-edged whitish outer webs, forming a whitish row across the shoulder. Flight and tail feathers are barred dark.
The general colour of the underparts is paler than the upperparts, with blackish shaft-streaks and cross-bars. The upper breast has brownish
vermiculations, with fewer or none on lower areas. Throat is whitish. Tarsi are feathered to the base of the toes, which are bare and dusky-flesh in
colour. Claws are horn with darker tips.
Red morph: Generally rufous with patterns similar to the grey morph, but with the dark patterns less prominent.
Size: Length 20-23cm. Wing length 152-178mm. Tail length 68-94mm. Weight 91-123g.
Habits: The Middle American Screech Owl is Nocturnal, hiding in dense foliage or tree cavities during the day. Rarely uses an open perch to sing, so is difficult to locate.
Voice: The male's A-song is a long trilling series of 'u' notes, at 14 per second, which can last up to 20 seconds or so.
This phrase is repeated after a pause of several seconds. The entire song starts softly, then increases gradually in volume and slightly in pitch before
abruptly breaking off. The female has a similar, usually shorter song which is slightly higher in pitch and has a 'tinny' quality.
The B-song is a short sequence of accelerating staccato notes with the rhythm not unlike a table-tennis ball bouncing on a hard surface - bup bup bup-bup-bupbupbupbupburrt. Again, the female has a similar higher-pitched call which is used in courtship duets with the male.
Hunting & Food: The Middle American Screech Owl feeds mainly on insects and larger arthropods. Occasionally takes small terrestrial vertebrates. Prey is caught by swooping on it from a perch, or in flight. Frequently hunts at forest edge or in clearings where it takes insects in flight. Insects are also taken from branches or from the ground.
Breeding: Not well studied. Nests in natural tree cavities, especially woodpecker holes and knotholes. 2-3 white eggs are laid on the debris already in the hole.
Habitat: Humid to semi-arid forest (evergreen or semi-deciduous) as well as dense scrubby woodland. Ranges from sea level up to about 1500m.
Distribution: Mexico, on the Pacific slope from South Sonora to Oaxaca, and on the Atlantic side from Tamauilipas south to Yucatán, Cozumel Island and East Chiapas. Also Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Status: Listed as 'Least Concern' by Birdlife International.
Original Description: Sharpe, Richard Bowdler. 1875. Catalogue of Birds in the British Museum (Cat. Birds Brit. Mus.) 2: p. 112, pl. 9.