Pulsatrix perspicillataspectacled owl

Geographic Range

Pulsatrix perspicillata can be found from Southern Mexico through Argentina. It can also be found on Carribean islands such as Trinidad. (Burton, et al., 1984; Owl Pages, Date Unknown)


Spectacled owls live near water in rainforest and woodlands. They can be found from sea level to elevations of 1600 m. (Burton, et al., 1984; Owl Pages, Date Unknown; Owling.com, 2002)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 1600 m
    0.00 to 5249.34 ft

Physical Description

Spectacled owls are characterized by white "spectacles" around their bright yellow eyes. They have dark brown plumage on their upper parts and off-white or light yellow plumage on their breast. They have a thin white stripe around the throat with a thick dark brown stripe below. Coloration is reversed in juveniles; they are mostly white with a brown/black facial disk.

Spectacled owls are 43 to 46 cm long, males weigh 453 to 680 g and females weigh 680 to 906 g. Their wingpans are from 0.762 to 0.914 m. (Burton, et al., 1984; Owl Pages, Date Unknown; Owling.com, 2002; Sedgwick County Zoo, 2001)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    453 to 906 g
    15.96 to 31.93 oz
  • Range length
    43 to 46 cm
    16.93 to 18.11 in
  • Range wingspan
    0.762 to 0.914 m
    2.50 to 3.00 ft


The incubation period of an embryo is from 6-8 months. Juveniles leave the nest before they are able to fly, but frequently return to eat. They go through almost five years of molting before they attain their adult plummage when in captivity.In the wild they may molt within three years.They attempt to fly within two years. Yet only after the long molting period can they fly efficiently.(Burton, 1984)


Spectacled owls are monogamous.

Breeding occurs in the dry season or the beginning of the wet season (April to June or September to October depending on location). They build their nests inside tree cavities. Females lay a maximum of two eggs and often only one chick will survive. Young fledge after 5 to 6 weeks; they are often dependent on their parents for up to a year. Spectacled owls reach maturity in 3 to 5 years. (Austin, 1971; Owl Pages, Date Unknown; Owling.com, 2002)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in the dry season or the beginning of the wet season.
  • Range eggs per season
    1 to 2
  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    36 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 to 5 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 to 5 years

Both the male and female assist in raising young, but most of the responsiblity rests on the female. They each take turns sitting on the eggs while the other goes out to hunt. The chicks leave the nest before they can fly and often remain with their parents for a year after fledging. (Owl Pages, Date Unknown; Owling.com, 2002)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning


With very few predators, this species can live up to 35 years in the wild. They are known to live for 25 to 30 years in captivity.

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    35 (high) years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    25 to 30 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    25 years


Spectacled owls are typically nocturnal, but have been known to hunt during the day on some occasions. They are not known to be migratory. (Owling.com, 2002)

Home Range

We do not have information on home range for this species at this time.

Communication and Perception

Males have a distinct call that sounds like a hammer hitting a hollow tree repeatedly; the sound descends in volume. Females have a loud screeching call used mostly to attract males during the mating season. (Owl Pages, Date Unknown; Owling.com, 2002)

Food Habits

Spectacled owls are very fast, and once they spot their prey they will swoop down, snatch up the prey, and return to their perch. They will also glean insects from vegetation. They are carnivorous and mostly eat mice and insects. They are also known to eat crabs, bats, possums, skunks, frogs and smaller birds no larger than a blue jay. They usually hunt at night, but will occasionally hunt during the day. (Owl Pages, Date Unknown; Owling.com, 2002; Sedgwick County Zoo, 2001)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods


Because spectacled owls hide in foliage that hangs low, they are not easily detected by predators. They are sometimes preyed upon by larger birds (class Aves).

  • Known Predators
    • other birds (Aves)

Ecosystem Roles

Spectacled owls are important members of their ecosystem; because of their food habits they likely have a regulatory influence on insect and mammal populations, and they are an important food source for their predators.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Spectacled owls help eliminate pests species, such as insects and mice that can destroy crops.

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse affects of spectacled owls on humans.

Conservation Status

Spectacled owls are listed under Appendix II by CITES but have not been evlauated by the IUCN. They could become severely threatened if rainforests and other forested areas in South America continue to be cut down for agriculture and lumber industries.

There have already been efforts to conserve spectacled owls. Many are bred in captivity and released in the wild, while others are kept in zoos and conservatories.


Alaine Camfield (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Cecilia Patino (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kerry Yurewicz (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


Austin, O. 1971. Families of Birds. New York: Golden Press.

Burton, P., M. Fogden, H. Ginn, D. Glue, G. Hekstra. 1984. Owls of the World. Great Britiain: Peter Lowe.

Owl Pages, Date Unknown. "Spectacled Owls - Pulsatrix perspicillata" (On-line). Accessed February 25, 2004 at http://www.owlpages.com/species/pulsatrix/perspicillata/Default.htm.

Owling.com, 2002. "Spectacled Owl - Pulsatrix perspicillata" (On-line). Accessed February 11, 2004 at http://owling.com/Spectacled.htm.

Perrins, C., A. Middleton. 1985. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File.

Sedgwick County Zoo, 2001. "Sedgwick County Zoo- See our World" (On-line). Accessed 02/11/04 at http://www.scz.org/animals/o/spowl.html.