Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Near Threatened

Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis)


French: Chouette tachetée German: Fleckenkauz Spanish: Cárabo californiano

Syrnium occidentale


, 1860,

Fort Tejon, California, USA


Probably closest to S. varia and perhaps S. fulvescens. Occasionally hybridizes with S. varia#R#R. Race lucida very pale, might be specifically distinct. Genetic study indicated that nominate race and much darker caurina represent two well-differentiated lineages connected by narrow hybridization zone in region of low population density in NC California, suggesting that caurina also is a distinct species#R. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. o. caurina (Merriam, 1898) – Northern Spotted Owl – SW Canada (British Columbia), S through W USA Coast Ranges to N California.
  • S. o. occidentalis (Xántus, 1860) – California Spotted Owl – C & S Californian Coast Ranges and W slope of Sierra Nevada, S to N Baja California.
  • S. o. huachucae Swarth, 1910 – SW USA (N Arizona, SE Utah and S Colorado) S to N Mexico (E Sonora and Chihuahua).
  • S. o. lucida (Nelson, 1903) – Mexican Spotted Owl – mountains of N & C Mexico (S to Michoacán and Guanajuato).
  • S. o. juanaphillipsae Dickerman, 1997 – mountains of C Mexico (México).
  • Descriptive notes

    41–48 cm; male 520–700 g, female 550–760 g. Medium-sized brown owl; flight slow, quick wingbeats interspersed with gliding. Facial disc large, rounded,... read more


    A 4-note “whoop hu-hu hooo”, by both sexes, female somewhat higher and hoarser; also a... read more


    Mature coniferous and mixed forest, and wooded canyons: western hemlock (Tsuga), Douglas... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small and medium-sized mammals, including e.g. northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys), wood rats (Neotoma), mice (... read more


    Season Mar–Jun. Monogamous. Nest in natural cavity or broken top of tree, or pothole or other cavity in cliff or on cliff ledge, or... read more


    Mostly resident, with some short seasonal shifts. Nominate occidentalis sometimes makes... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. CITES II. Races caurina and lucida listed as threatened under US Endangered Species Act, ... 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., Christie, D.A. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis). 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 18 January 2020).