Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Tawny-bellied Screech-owl (Megascops watsonii)


French: Petit-duc de Watson German: Watsonkreischeule Spanish: Autillo del Amazonas

Ephialtes Watsonii


, 1849,

Orinoco River, Venezuela


Suggested as belonging to the putative M. atricapilla species-group (see that species, below), but large overlap in range with M. vermiculatus. From vocal evidence and DNA-sequencing appears closest to M. atricapilla, and has even been treated as conspecific; more distantly related to M. choliba than previously thought. Race usta has been treated as a separate species#R#R; compared with nominate, however, differences in morphology appear to be minimal and vocal dissimilarities, although seemingly great, perhaps not constant, and convergent where the two converge geographically#R; confirmation of reported differences in plumage and in eye colour#R needed, and further study and analysis of vocalizations required (two song types exist, but whether variation clinal or not is not known#R), in order to clarify distinctiveness of taxa. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. w. watsonii (Cassin, 1849) – Northern Tawny-bellied Screech-owl – lowlands from E Colombia S to NE Peru and E (N of R Amazon) to French Guiana and Amazonian Brazil.
  • M. w. usta (P. L. Sclater, 1858) – Southern Tawny-bellied Screech-owl – E Peru and S Amazonian Brazil S to lowland forest of N Bolivia and N Mato Grosso.
  • Descriptive notes

    19–24 cm; c. 114–155 g (nominate), 115–141 g (usta). Facial disc and eyebrows brown-buff, with faint blackish vermiculations and thin dark border;... read more


    Primary song of nominate race a long series of rapid notes, becoming faster and louder, then fading... read more


    Interior of lowland rainforest, especially old-growth primary forest and mature second growth;... read more

    Food and feeding

    Very little information. Said to feed mostly insects; probably also terrestrial vertebrates. Forages in the lower levels.


    Poorly known. A nest in E Acre, Brazil, found 9 Sept 2010, was in hole in a dead palm (Bactris gasipaes) c. 2 m above the ground,... read more


    Presumably resident.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Status uncertain, and species poorly known, with no estimates of global poulation size or population trends. Reported 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., de Juana, E. & Marks, J.S. (2019). Tawny-bellied Screech-owl (Megascops watsonii). 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 6 December 2019).