Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Tropical Screech-owl (Megascops choliba)


French: Petit-duc choliba German: Cholibakreischeule Spanish: Autillo chóliba

Strix choliba


, 1817,



Relationships unclear. Recent study suggested that this species is phylogenetically closely related to largely Middle American M. trichopsis and Neotropical M. albogularis#R. Has in the past included M. roboratus and M. koepckeae as races, but those both clearly distinct in morphology and/or vocalizations. Very dark tepui race duidae distinctive in plumage, and said also to differ vocally from other races#R, but comparative studies of voice currently lacking. Subspecies name uruguaii has been spelt alternatively as uruguaiensis; former spelling selected by First Reviser#R. Name cruciger often given erroneously as crucigerus. Several additional races described, but probably only morphs or result of individual variation: montanus, kelsoi, alticola, caucae, guyanensis and portoricensis synonymized with cruciger; caatingensis with decussatus; chapadensis with nominate; alilicoco with wetmorei. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. c. luctisonus (Bangs & T. E. Penard, 1921) – Costa Rica to NW Colombia, including Pearl Is (off S Panama).
  • M. c. margaritae (Cory, 1915) – Margarita I, off N Venezuela.
  • M. c. duidae (Chapman, 1929) – Cerro Duida and Serranía de la Neblina, in S Venezuela.
  • M. c. cruciger (Spix, 1824) – E Colombia and E Peru across to Venezuela, Trinidad, the Guianas and NE Brazil.
  • M. c. surutus (L. Kelso, 1941) – N & C Bolivia.
  • M. c. decussatus (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – C & E Brazil.
  • M. c. choliba (Vieillot, 1817) – S Brazil (S Mato Grosso, São Paulo) to E Paraguay.
  • M. c. wetmorei (Brodkorb, 1937) – S Bolivia, W Paraguay and N Argentina (S to Mendoza, N Buenos Aires and N Río Negro).
  • M. c. uruguaii (Hekstra, 1982) – extreme NE Argentina (Misiones), SE Brazil (Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul) and Uruguay.
  • Descriptive notes

    21–25 cm; male 80–169 g, female 97–196 g. Medium-sized screech-owl with short ear tufts; occurs in grey-brown, brown and rufous morphs, with intermediates,... read more


    Primary song a brief trill followed by 2, occasionally 1 or 3, louder toots, “prrrr pu POO,... read more


    Open forest, savanna, gallery forest, forest clearings and edge, semi-open areas with scattered... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly insects, especially large orthopterans such as grasshoppers and crickets, as well as scarabids, bumblebees, moths; also spiders and... read more


    Lays Jan–Jul, regularly May; Sept–Oct in S. Nest in any kind of cavity, natural or old woodpecker hole; also uses abandoned... read more


    Little known; probably resident.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. No estimate of global population size, but numbers are assumed to be stable. Widely distributed and rather common; most... 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). Tropical Screech-owl (Megascops choliba). 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 24 February 2020).