NatureMapping Animal Facts for Kids

Spotted Owl

Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis)

distribution map

What they look like: The Spotted owl is a medium-sized, dark brown owl with a barred tail, white spots on the head and breast, and dark brown eyes. Males and females have similar plumage (feathers), but females typically weigh 10 to 20 percent more than males. The Spotted Owl has a body length of 16 - 19 inches, a 3 1/2 foot wingspan, and weighs 1 - 1 1/2 pounds.

People often mistake the Barred Owl for a Spotted Owl. See if you can find the differences between the two species.

northern spotted owl Where they live: Spotted owls live in old evergreen forests with dense canopy cover.

Click the map for information about the habitat and range of the Spotted Owl in Washington.

What they eat: The Spotted Owl eats small mammals like flying squirrels, wood rats, mice, voles and also some birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

Nesting: Nests in tree cavities, broken-topped trees, and platforms, such as old raptor (hawks, eagles, falcons) or squirrel nests. Does not build its own nest. Adult females lay an average of 2 eggs per clutch with a range of 1 to 4 eggs. The eggs are incubated for 30 days. The chicks start moving out of the nest at 5 weeks and learn to fly at 6 weeks of age.

Spotted owl pairs do not typically nest every year, nor are nesting pairs successful every year.

Behavior: Spotted owls are mostly nocturnal (active at night), but they may also forage for food during the day.

Threats: The primary cause of decline in spotted owl numbers is due to the loss of the old-growth forests where they live. Because of the owls prefer for old-growth forests, it is heavily affected by clear-cut logging. The northern form is considered Endangered in Canada and Threatened in the United States.

Did you know?

  • The Spotted Owl is closely tied to old-growth forests for nesting sites.
  • The most important food items for the Spotted Owl are flying squirrels and woodrats.
  • Spotted Owls are one of the few owls that have dark colored eyes. Most owls have yellow to red-orange eyes.
  • A Spotted Owl may live to be 17 years old.

Washington State Owls (video)

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