Spotted Owl Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The spotted owl (Strix occidentalis) is a true owl species. It is mostly found in the old-growth forests of western North America. The bird is almost entirely nocturnal and it is thought to feed on small birds and mammals. Spotted owls are smaller than the barred owls.

Spotted Owl Facts


  • The spotted owl is 43 cm (17 in) long with the wingspan measuring about 114 cm (45 in).
  • They weigh up to 600 g (21 oz).
  • Spotted owls seem more like barred owls except that there are cross-shaped markings on the undersides.
  • The home range of spotted owls is 1,030 acres (417 ha).


  • Spotted owls are known to occur in the southwestern British Columbia to all the way to western Washington including north-central California.
  • In some areas such as western Sierra Nevada the spotted owl’s range seems to overlap with the northern spotted owl.
  • Some of the isolated population is found in the mountainous areas of southern California including northern Baja California.
  • They have also occupied canyons and some mountain ranges of New Mexico, western Texas, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado.

Read More: What Do Owls Like to Eat?

spotted owl
spotted owl is on the hunt ©


  • In California, spotted owls seem to prefer hardwood, coniferous, and coniferous-hardwood forests. They fancy living in these habitats because they are abundant in California red fir, Jeffrey pine and ponderosa pine.
  • Spotted owls feel home in oak and riparian woodlands.
  • They are thought to use montane meadows for foraging.
  • Spotted owls will like make homes in high altitudes. The habitats of northern spotted owls are found at a height of 70 to 6,600 feet (21 to 2,012 m).


  • The spotted owl is not typically migratory but those living in Mexico and California are known to travel as little as 31 miles outside the breeding season.
  • The Californian species will leave their breeding sites from October to December to come back in late February. Similarly, the Mexican spotted owls are thought to leave in Nov – Dec and return in Jan – April.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • Like most other owl species, spotted owls are sit-and-wait predators as they will pounce on prey at night. Their prey includes bats and insects.
  • They are likely to feed on woodrats, northern flying squirrels, Mexican woodrats, deer mice, Pocket gophers, white-footed mice, voles, brush rabbits, red tree voles, squirrels, shrews, and moles.
  • White-footed mice make up much of the owl’s diet.
  • Their diet also includes many birds such as woodpeckers, jays, smaller owls, and songbirds.
  • They are less likely to prey on amphibians and reptiles.
  • During winter spotted owls will love to eat pocket gophers, voles, insects, and rabbits.

Learn more: What do Owls Eat

Reproductive Biology

  • The breeding season begins in the early spring while it ends on late fall.
  • Owls living in the western Oregon are apt to lay eggs from March to April.
  • The incubation period lasts 30 days while the eggs are hatched in mid-May. The mother alone incubates the eggs while the male guards her and finds her some food.
  • The young will fledge in about 34 – 36 days. However they will remain dependent until August or September. The Mexican spotted owls can leave in August or October.
  • There can be 1 – 4 eggs in a single clutch but the average is two. The length of the eggs is 50 mm (2.0 in).
  • They build nests at a height of about 12 to 60 meters (39 to 197 ft).
  • They reach the maturity at 3 years age. However in Oregon or Washington, owls may breed as early as two years.
  • Northern spotted owls have an average lifespan of 16 – 17 years but it depends on the environment. The change in weather directly hits the reproductive rate of the spotted owl.
  • Predators of spotted owls’ include golden eagles, great horned owls, barred owls, northern goshawks, and red-tailed hawks.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

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