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Mexican Spotted Owl: Why Is It Endangered?

Mexican Spotted Owls are Mexican birds that are on the endangered species list, but little is known by many about these cuddly creatures.

  • Status: Near threatened
  • Known as: Mexican Spotted Owl, Spotted owl
  • Estimated numbers left in the wild: 2,100 in the United States, Mexican population unknown but also very low

The owl are found in Mexico and parts of Central America, but can also be found in Canada and the US. Spotted owls have high flying abilities and hunt by sitting on trees waiting to catch prey without making any noise!

These owls also have large eyes which allow them to see well in the dark so they can stay out hunting for prey all night long!

They are located in Mexico and parts of Central America, but can also be found in Canada and the US.


Flying Mexican Spotted Owl

Mexican spotted owl is large owls, though they are the smallest subspecies of the spotted owl.

Their height ranges up to 48 centimeters and their wingspan can be as much as 112 centimeters. As with most owls, much of their apparent body is actually a fluffy mass of feathers, and the lean body inside weighs 640 grams at most.

Females are larger than males on average.

The color of this subspecies is chestnut brown with large white and brown spots on the head, chest, and back. Unusually, their eyes are dark in color, which is in contrast to the light colors of most owl eyes – a fact which allows much easier identification.

Anatomy and Appearance

The owl has a primarily brown color. They have small, dark eyes which makes them difficult to spot in the woodlands.

The spotted owls are about 11-18 inches tall with an expanse of 26-34 inches. Spotted owls have wingspans that are about 10 inches wide with a 4-inch tail. The bird is primarily carnivorous meaning they eat primarily meat.

They are primarily nocturnal meaning they hunt at night or later into the evening often around the sunset or just before dawn.


Mexican Spotted Owl on a Tree
Tisha Mukherjee, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mexican spotted owl occurs throughout northwestern and central Mexico, and their range extends up into the United States, including Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.

The species is typically found in old-growth forests in mountain or canyon terrain.

Mexican Spotted Owls Habitat

Mexican spotted owls inhabit Mexican evergreen forests, deciduous woodlands, and pine-oak woodlands.

The species can also be found in open, semiopen suitable habitat, and also in breeding habitat ecology. The bird species like to live in dense, old-growth forests that have a lot of large trees. Spotted owls use these forests for nesting, roosting, and foraging.

They are very good at flying and can catch prey from high in the air! Owls also live in North America, but can also be found in Central America and parts of Canada.

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Mexican Spotted Owls Diet and Nutrition

close up of mexican spotted owl

The owl is solitary hunters who prefer old-growth forests with large trees and a dense canopy of branches overall. Mexican Spotted Owls feed primarily prey particularly birds, rabbits, squirrels, mice, reptiles, and insects

They prey on small forest animals of many different kinds, including mammals (rabbits, gophers, wood rats, mice, bats, and voles principally), reptiles (snakes and lizards), and even insects or large spiders.

Their preferred hunting technique is to perch on a high branch, scanning the ground below with their keen eyesight and hearing. When prey appears, they drop silently on it, kill it, and devour it.

Mexican Spotted Owls Mating Habits

The species is confronted by poor reproductive success as well as other problems. The preferred nest site for this owl is a natural hollow in a tree, though they will also use cliff ledges and may appropriate large stick nests made by other bird species, especially during the breeding season.

Two to four eggs are laid and the young owls stay in the next for slightly more than a month. The young spotted owls are able to fly shortly thereafter and gradually become more independent. They are known to live up to 17 years in the wild.

Mexican Spotted Owl Population

Mexican spotted owl populations are declining throughout their range.

The main threats to the spotted owls are loss of habitat and vegetation communities, shooting, and collisions with power lines. Spotted owls used to be very common in Mexico and Central America, but now Mexican spotted owl populations are very low. The owl species can still be found in North America and Canada though!

Spotted owls used to be very common throughout Mexico and Central America, but now owls are a threatened species. Spotted Owls have lost much of their habitat to deforestation and other human activities.

Mexican Spotted Owl vs Other Owl Species

Sleeping mexican spotted owl

Mexican Spotted Owls are different from other owls in a few ways.

The bird spots, which is where they get their name from and are one of the few birds that have this feature. The owl also has high flying abilities and can be found in different parts of North America.

It hunts by sitting on trees and waiting for prey to come to them, rather than flying around looking for it like other owls do. They can be found in Mexican, parts of Central America, the US, and Canada.

Spotted owls are also endangered animals that you might see when traveling or where ever the bird species are located!

Mexican Spotted Owl and Human Relationship

The bird has had a long and complicated relationship with humans.

Historically, these spotted owls were killed because people thought they were a threat to livestock. Nowadays, spotted owls are endangered because of human activities such as spotted owl habitat destruction and hunting.

They are very important to the environment and ecosystem, and it is important that we do what we can to protect them!

Mexican Spotted Owl Facts

Here are some fun facts about Mexican spotted owls.

  • Spotted owls can live up to 20 years in the wild!
  • This owl species mate for life!
  • Spotted owls can start flying when they are only 10 days old!
  • They are found in Mexican forests that have large trees to perch on.
  • Spotted owls like to eat small mammals, lizards, and mice.
  • The owl sometimes work together to catch food, which is called cooperative hunting!
  • The bird were one of the first animals to be put on the endangered species list in 1973.

Conservation Status

Mexican Spotted Owls on tree
Tisha Mukherjee, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mexican spotted owls’ conservation status is currently listed as “endangered.” This means that they are at a high risk of extinction in the wild. The owls are threatened by loss of habitat, hunting, and collisions with windows and cars.


Habitat destruction and climate change are the two main threats to the Mexican spotted owl’s future at the current time. Logging of old-growth forests is a particularly acute risk in the United States, while Mexican forestry is different and not as destructive.

For this reason, the Mexican spotted owl is declining in the United States but likely stable in Mexico.

Climate change is threatening this owl species as well because conditions are growing hotter and drier over much of the bird’s range.

This lessens the availability of prey, heightens the hazard of large forest fires (which, of course, can destroy the invaluable mature forests, too), and gradually shifts the local ecology away from the conditions spotted owls are adapted to.

Great horned owls prey on spotted owls, and barred owls also threaten the species.

Conservation efforts

Pair of Mexican spotted owl

Mexican spotted owls are currently under fish and wildlife service as well as wildlife conservation efforts. The species are one of the birds on the endangered species list because they are threatened, mostly by hunting and poisoning. Spotted Owls can live up to 16 years old.

Organizations such as the Center for Biological Diversity, wildlife society, and other organizations are currently championing the cause of the Mexican spotted owl, chiefly through legal action intended to extend protection to its critical habitat. Wildlife organizations also conduct raptor research and conservation projects to conduct the bird

Unfortunately, recent defeats in the legal arena have left birds in the United States vulnerable to logging, ranching, and other habitat destruction.


Do you know of or are you a part of an organization that works to conserve the Mexican Spotted Owl, then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.

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Final Thoughts

Mexican Spotted Owls are owls that live in Mexico and Central America’s interior.

Spotted owls have excellent flying skills, which is why they may be found in Canada despite being a threatened species.

The demise of the Mexican spotted owl is primarily attributed to habitat loss, shooting, power line collisions, climate change effects on prey abundance, great horned owls preying upon them, or barred owls threatening with competition for food sources.

Organizations such as the Center for Biological Diversity are currently championing the cause of Mexican Spotted Owl species by taking legal action to protect their habitats from logging and other human activities.


What are Mexican spotted owls?

The spotted owls are a type of Mexican bird that is on the endangered species list.

Spotted owls, or barred owls, can be found in Mexico and parts of Central America, but they also reside in Canada and the US.

The owls are one of the few birds that have spots (which give them their name), and these magnificent creatures fly at heights of 2-5 meters (6-15 feet) while staying completely silent.

Spotted owls hunt by sitting on trees until prey arrives; once prey is close to ground level spotted owls make a swift attack without making any noise whatsoever to outsmart potential prey.

What makes Mexican Spotted Owls different from other owls?

Mexican Spotted Owl is a bird species that are different from owl species because spotted Owls contain more spots.

The bird has brown feathers with white spots all over its body, which is a unique characteristic that not many owl species share.

They are located in Mexico and parts of Central America; however, they have been known to migrate to different locations including Canada and the US.

There are Mexican Spotted Owls in Canada, how come they are endangered?

The Mexican spotted owl can also be located in Canada and United States.

Most of the spotted owls live in Mexican countries like Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan, and Baja California (California spotted owl). Spotted owls may borrow between different countries if their habitats are destroyed or if their homes become poisoned by human activity or invasive species.

Multiple surveys show that these owl species are affected by habitat loss due to the construction of highways, dams, and other projects which destroy the forest area where they live (only 7% is now left), as well as the widespread use of pesticides for agricultural purposes.

How long can Mexican spotted owls live for?

Spotted owls are typically found in the Mexican region, but the owls have been known to live up to 20 years.

Spotted owls are also one of the few owl species that have markings on their plumage, which is how they received their name. The owls live in deciduous and coniferous forests, as well as wetlands near rivers and lakes.

The bird usually nests in tall trees and can be found in a variety of habitats. Spotted owls are not currently endangered but are considered threatened. Mexican Spotted Owl is protected under Mexican law and the endangered species act.

What do Mexican spotted owls eat?

Spotted owls eat Mexican fox squirrels, mice, Mexican pygmy rabbits, Rufous-naped wrens, and Mexican bullfrogs.

How can I help Mexican spotted owls?

Mexican Spotted Owl is native to Mexican regions, but can also be found in Central America and the United States. Spotted owls are endangered, with dwindling populations throughout their range.

You can help Mexican Spotted Owl and other owl species by encouraging the Mexican government to protect their natural habitat and work on strategies for reducing hunting pressure on Mexican prized game species like Mexico’s fish owls (another charismatic feathered friend).

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