|In the rainforest of Costa Rica|
The spectacled owl, Pulsatrix perspicillata, is a large tropical owl. It is a resident breeder from southern Mexico and Trinidad, through Central America, south to southern Brazil, Paraguay and northwestern Argentina. There are six subspecies.
The spectacled owl is found in Mexico, Central America (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama), Trinidad and Tobago, and South America (Colombia; Venezuela, Suriname, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina).
The spectacled owl can range from 43 to 52 cm (17 to 20 in) in length. Mass in males can range from 453 to 700 g (0.999 to 1.543 lb), where as females can weigh from 680 to 1,000 g (1.50 to 2.20 lb). It is unmistakable with brown upperparts, head and upper breast, white facial markings and whitish to yellowish-ochre underparts. The eyes are yellow and the beak is pale. The juvenile is even more distinctive than the adult, being completely white apart from a chocolate brown facial disc. Of the six subspecies, only the nominate and P. p. saturata are well described. P. p. saturata differs from the typical spectacled owl only in that it is black on the head and the back, with black barring on the sides.
The primary sound made by the spectacled owl consists of knocking or tapping sounds with a popping effect: PUP-pup-pup-pup-po or BOO Boo boo boo boo. Each progressive note becomes weaker but faster as the call continues. Females also make a hawk-like scream, ker-WHEEER, which has often been compared to a steam-whistle.
The spectacled owl is primarily a bird of tropical rain forests, being found mostly in areas where dense, old-growth forest is profuse. However, it may enter secondary habitats, such as forest edges, especially while hunting. On occasion, they have been found in dry forests, treed savanna plains, plantations and semi-open areas with trees.
This species is largely nocturnal, starting activity right around the time of last light at dusk and usually being back on their roosts for the day around first light. It is a solitary, unsocial bird, usually roosting singly each day and only peaceable associating with others of their own species for reproductive purposes.
The spectacled owl is typically the largest and most dominant owl in its range, with the larger great horned owl rarely venturing into true rainforest habitats. Most hunting starts with the owl perched on a branch and scanning the area, then dropping with a quick pounce when prey is located. It preys principally on a wide array of mammals, eating almost anything type that is nocturnally active. Various rodents may be primary but other mammals preyed on have included opossums and skunks. Prey species can be heavier than the predating owl, weigh over 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) as in Didelphis opossums, and even the much larger three-toed sloth has been reported to have been killed. Invertebrates are eaten regularly as well, mainly caterpillars, but also crabs, snails, large insects and spiders. Insects may be gleaned directly from foliage while the large owls actively forage. Birds are also taken, including species, such as jays and pigeons, which are taken off of their nocturnal perches and smaller types of owl.
In Costa Rica, eggs are laid variously in the dry season (November–May), or at the start of the wet season (June–July). This owl typically nests in an unlined tree cavity. Spectacled owls lay 1-2 eggs, which are incubated by the female for about 5 weeks. Chicks leave the nest for surrounding branches at about 5–6 weeks, well before they can fly, but depend on their parents for up to a year once fledged. Often, only one of the chicks will survive.
The following subspecies are currently recognized:
- Pulsatrix perspicillata boliviana L. Kelso, 1933
- Pulsatrix perspicillata chapmani Griscom, 1932
- Pulsatrix perspicillata perspicillata (Latham, 1790)
- Pulsatrix perspicillata pulsatrix (Wied-Neuwied, 1820)
- Pulsatrix perspicillata saturata Ridgway, 1914
- Pulsatrix perspicillata trinitatis Bangs & T. E. Penard, 1918
- BirdLife International (2012). "Pulsatrix perspicillata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "Pulsatrix perspicillata". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- Burnie D and Wilson DE (Eds.), Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. DK Adult (2005), ISBN 0789477645
- Owls of the World by Konig, Weick & Becking. Yale University Press (2009), ISBN 0300142277
- "Wild sloth killed by small spectacled owl in Panama". BBC News.
- A guide to the birds of Costa Rica by Stiles and Skutch ISBN 0-8014-9600-4
- Owl Profile- OwlPages.com
- Birds of Venezuela by Hilty, ISBN 0-7136-6418-5
- ffrench, Richard (1991). A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd edition ed.). Comstock Publishing. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2.
- Stamps (for Belize, Honduras, Paraguay, and Suriname); Stamp-photo
- Spectacled Owl photo gallery VIREO Photo-High Res
- Spectacled Owl videos on the Internet Bird Collection
Parents and a chick at London Zoo, England