Whiskered Screech-Owl Biology

A Reference for North and Central American Owls

Name: Whiskered Screech-Owl – Megascops (Otus) trichopsis
Other Common Names: Arizona Whiskered Owl; Spotted Screech-Owl; Whiskered Owl.

Subspecies: There are three accepted races of Whiskered Screech-Owl in North and Central America. Only one of these races has a range crossing into North America. Six additional races are described but not yet recognized and subsequently included within the following.
M. t. aspersus is found from S. E. Arizona and S. W. New Mexico to Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico.
M. t. trichopsis is found in the highlands of central Mexico from Michoacan to Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas. The described races ridgwayi (Michoacan), guerrerensis (S. W. Mexico), and pinosus (Veracruz) are included.
M. t. mesamericanus is found from S. E. Mexico (Chiapas) to N. C. Nicaragua. The described race pumilus (Honduras) is included.

Measurements and Weights:
Wingspan: 16 – 20 in.
Length: 6.5 – 8 in.
Tail: 2.5 – 3 in.
Average Weight: Male: 3 oz.
Average Weight: Female: 3.3 oz.

  • Barn Owl
  • Barn Owl
  • Barn Owl

Description: The smallest of the three Screech-Owls that occur in North America. All three Screech-Owls are very similar in appearance and can only positively be distinguished in the field by their call (see the Western Screech-Owl biology for the visual differences of all three owls). The Eastern and Whiskered Screech-Owls have no overlap in range in North America so confusing these is not possible. The ear tufts are conspicuous when raised. Its facial “whiskers” give rise to the owl’s name. These bristles are more numerous and longer (extending well beyond the bill) than in the other Screech-Owls. The owl is generally brownish-gray above with dark brown and white mottling, short streaks or spots. Under parts are dull white with dark brownish-gray streaks and crossbars. The iris is lemon-yellow and the bill is yellow to grayish or greenish-yellow.

Young: Initially pure white. This plumage is replaced with a dull grayish-brown coat above with indistinct gray and white barring or mottling. Under parts are dull white, broadly barred with grayish-brown.