Facts about Bearded Screech Owl. The Bearded Screech Owl is limited to a very small range in Central America. These small brown owls are not well studied but much can be inferred by comparison to related species. "Scientific name for Bearded Screech Owl is Megascops barbarus". The species was identified by P. L. Schlater in 1868. The species is also called Otus Barbarus, Santa Barbara Screech-Owl, Tecolote Barbudo (Spanish), Tecolote Ocotero and Tecolote Bigotón. In Spain, it is called Autillo Barbudo. It is a member of the megascops genus and Strigidae family.
Physical Characteristics of Bearded Screech Owl
There are both red and brown “morphs” or color patterns of the Bearded Screech Owl. The Bearded Screech Owls of the Strigidae family have small ear tufts. Their face veils are light brown with a darker brown or black border. Their feathers are darker brown on the top with black and white spots. Their upper mantle has brown feathers with white spots. Their chests have brown and yellow bands. The shoulder feathers have black flags. The Bearded Screech Owls are light brown with darker red-brown mottling.
The Bearded Screech Owls are six to seven inches (15.2 to 17.8 cm) tall. Their wings extend past their short tails. Bearded Screech Owls have yellow eyes and green-gray bills. Their claws are grayish-pink.
This species has such a small range that there are no “races” or distinct subpopulations of the bird.
Behavior of Bearded Screech Owl
Bearded Screech Owls are entirely nocturnal. The Bearded Screech Owl mostly lives off large insects like beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and moths, though it will eat small lizards and mammals if it can catch them. Bearded Screech Owls nest in tree cavities. Their clutch size is not known, though related owls have clutches of five to six eggs. Breeding takes place between March and June.
Bearded Screech Owls have a soft hoot similar to that of the pygmy owl. It repeats the notes at two second intervals. It sometimes uses a three to five second trill that is louder and grows in volume until stopping abruptly.
The Bearded Screech Owl does not migrate in its territory, not even up and down the mountain to minimize time spent in cooler climates.
Habitat of Bearded Screech Owl
The Bearded Screech Owl lives in humid pine and oak forests and cloud forests at elevations from 5,000 to 8,000 feet in Central America. They live in the understory and mid-story of the forest. Their preferred habitat has been threatened by bark beetle epidemics killing the trees they prefer to live in.
Range of Bearded Screech Owl
The Bearded Screech Owl is found in subtropical and tropical forests in Guatemala and Mexico. Its range includes the Huitepec Biological Reserve in Chiapas, Mexico. The rest of its range is fragmented by human infringement, logging and farming. The montane forests of Chiapas these birds thrive in have been reduced to less than a quarter of their original range. Bearded Screech Owls have been found in ten year old pine plantations but typically have not adapted well to tree plantations.
Trivia about Bearded Screech Owl
Depending on the source, the estimates range from 20,000 to 50,000 individuals. Partners in Flight estimates that there are fewer than 50,000 bearded screech owls left. This species is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. Mexico considers the species “in peril of extinction”. That is their equivalent of an endangered species list.