The Owl Pages

Puerto Rican Screech Owl ~ Megascops nudipes


The Puerto Rican Screech Owl is a small owl with no ear-tufts. A greyish-brown and rufescent morph are known to exist. It is sometimes known as the Cuckoo Bird in the Virgin Islands.

Photo Gallery (1 picture)

  • Puerto Rican Screech Owl

Sound Gallery

Typical call - El Yunque NP, Puerto Rico. April 2009. CC Dan Lane.


Description: 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 than 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 20-23cm. Wing Length 154-171mm. Weight 103-154g.

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.

Habitat: Dense Woodland, thickets and caves.

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

Range of Puerto Rican Screech Owl (Megascops nudipes)
Range 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.

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.

See also: Other owls from Central America, Genus: Megascops.

Page by Deane Lewis. Last updated 2015-10-15.