The Owl Pages

Bare-shanked Screech Owl ~ Megascops clarkii


The Bare-shanked Screech Owl is a small owl with short ear-tufts.

Photo Gallery (4 pictures)

  • Bare-shanked Screech Owl
  • Bare-shanked Screech Owl
  • Bare-shanked Screech Owl
  • Bare-shanked Screech Owl

Sound Gallery

Typical call - Cerro de la Muerte, Costa Rica. March 2001. CC Dan Lane.


Description: The facial disc is cinnamon to tawny-brown with an indistinct dark rim. Eyes are pale yellow. The bill is greenish-grey or blueish-grey, while the cere is horn.
Upperparts are rich brown to dull rufous, heavily spotted, vermiculated and mottled with black. The hindneck is buffish, and the scapulars have white outer webs with blackish edges, forming a white band across the shoulder. Flight feathers are barred with cinnamon-buff, and the tail is barred light and dark.
Underparts are pale brown with a buffish or cinnamon tinge, mixed with white on the chest. The shaft-streaks on the underparts are blackish, with dusky and rufous horizontal bars or vermiculations. From the lower breast to the belly, there are large squarish white dots at each side of the central streak on most feathers, giving an 'ocellated' appearance.
Thighs are mostly buff. The lower third of the tarsi and the toes are bare, and pinkish-horn to flesh-coloured. Claws are dark horn with darker tips.

Size: Length 23-25cm. Wing length 173-190mm. Tail length 88-105mm. Weight 130-190g.

Habits: The Bare-shanked Screech Owl is a nocturnal bird, roosting by day in trees with dense foliage or a thick cover of epiphytes. Hunting is done at dusk and during the night at forest edges and clearings, occasionally in the canopy. This owl shows a tendency to be social, with family-sized groups being found close together, even during the breeding season.

Voice: The main call is a deep whistled woohg-woohg-woohg-woohg, repeated at intervals of several seconds.

Hunting & Food: Feeds mainly on large insects and small rodents. It likely takes other small vertebrates as well. Prey is taken with the talons from the ground or from branches.

Breeding: Nests in natural cavities in trees or in holes made by woodpeckers. Egg-laying occurs from February to May. Fledged young have been observed from May to August.

Habitat: Montane cloud forest from about 900m to 2350m or higher above sea-level. Prefers dense forest and forest edge, but may also be found in thinned woodland.

Distribution: Costa Rica to Northwest Colombia.

Range of Bare-shanked Screech Owl (Megascops clarkii)
Range of the Bare-shanked Screech Owl Megascops clarkii

Status: Listed as 'Least Concern' by Birdlife International.

Original Description: Kelso, Leon & Kelso, Estelle H. 1935. Biological Leaflet, no. 5.

References: (may contain affiliate links)
Boyer and Hume. 1991. "Owls of the World". BookSales Inc.
del Hoyo, Elliott & Sargatal. 1999. "Handbook of the Birds of the World: Barn Owls to Hummingbirds". Buteo Books.
International Ornithological Congress. 2023. "IOC World Bird List - Owls".
König, Claus & Weick, Friedhelm. 2008. "Owls: A Guide to the Owls of the World (Second Edition)". Yale University Press.
Megascops clarkii at Xeno-canto.

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

Page by Deane Lewis. Last updated 2020-10-22. Copyright Information.