Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Black-capped Screech-owl (Megascops atricapilla)


French: Petit-duc à mèches noires German: Kappenkreischeule Spanish: Autillo capirotado
Other common names: Variable Screech-owl

Strix atricapilla


, 1822,



Thought perhaps to form a species-group with M. guatemalae, M. vermiculatus, M. hoyi and M. sanctaecatarinae; the most recent genetic analysis places it in clade with M. asio, M. kennicottii, M. cooperi, M. barbarus, M. sanctaecatarinae, M. roboratus, M. watsonii, M. guatemalae, and M. vermiculatus#R. Sometimes considered to include some or most of these as races, but all now shown to be vocally distinct, and treatment as separate species supported by DNA evidence. Name argentinus has been erroneously applied to S populations of present species, but it might instead apply to M. sanctaecatarinae (which see). Taxonomy of Megascops in S Brazil and Argentine province of Misiones remains to be clarified. Monotypic.


SE Brazil (S Bahia and S Goiás S to Santa Catarina), SE Paraguay and extreme NE Argentina (N Misiones); an isolated population in NE Brazil (Alagoas, E Pernambuco) probably belongs to this species#R.

Descriptive notes

22–23 cm; male 115–140 g (n = 5), female up to 160 g. Medium-sized Megascops with blackish crown and prominent ear tufts; occurs in grey, brown... read more


Primary song a long fast trill, very faint before increasing in volume, ending abruptly, phrase 8... read more


Humid forest, especially extensive lowland rainforest; partial to thick viny forest with dense... read more

Food and feeding

Primarily insects, including beetles, locusts, cicadas and moths; probably also some small vertebrates. Forages in canopy, but frequently... read more


Little information. Three males with enlarged testes taken in Oct and Nov. Solitary, territorial, but at times almost semi-colonial,... read more


Probably resident.

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. No data on global numbers, pair densities, or population trends. May be locally fairly common; in Argentina, found to be... read more

Recommended citation

Holt, D.W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Black-capped Screech-owl (Megascops atricapilla). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).