• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Mottled Owl - BirdForum Opus

Subspecies superciliaris
Photo © by Francisco Paludo
Trilha dos Tucanos, Tapiraí, SP, Brazil, October 2016
Strix virgata

Ciccaba virgata


29–38 cm (11½-15 in)

  • Vertical bars on chest and throat
  • White markings in the back
  • Dark eyes
  • Round head

The sexes are dimorphic

A fuller description of a single bird is: dark slender owl, with brown eyes, and a dark face, rimmed with white. The breast is very dark, with black streaks and bars. The belly is lighter with dark streaks. The back is blackish brown.


Subspecies centralis
Photo © by Stanley Jones
Los Tarrales Reserve, south of San Luca Taliman, Guatemala, April 2010

Central and South America
Central America: Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Trinidad
South America: Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.

Accidental vagrant to Texas (1 specimen record).


This is a polytypic species[1 consisting of 7 subspecies

Ciccaba vs. Strix

Most authorities (Sibley & Monroe, 1996) retain Mottled Owl (virgata), Black-and-white Owl (nigrolineata), Black-banded Owl (huhula), and Rufous-banded Owl (albitarsis) in the genus Strix. König et al. state that the general morphology and phylogenetic evidence of these four species does not indicate separation from the rest of Strix, and Restall goes on to explain that they were originally separated into the genus Ciccaba based on anatomy of the external ear. As Clements (2022) and IOC (2022) also place these species in Strix, the Opus follows.


  • S. v. squamulata:
  • Western Mexico (Sonora to Guerrero, Guanajuato and Morelos)
  • S. v. tamaulipensis:
  • North-eastern Mexico (southern Nuevo León and Tamaulipas)
  • S. v. centralis:
  • South-eastern Mexico (Oaxaca and Veracruz) to western Panama
  • S. v. virgata:
  • S. v. macconnelli:
  • S. v. superciliaris:
  • North-central and north-eastern Amazonian Brazil
  • S. v. borelliana:


Bamboo glade: Riparian foothills of Atitlan Volcano; secondary cloud forest with coffee and ornamentals with scattered dense bamboo glades at ca. 1000 m elevation.


They are territorial.


They have a rather varied diet, consisting of large insects such as beetles, grasshoppers and cockroaches. They also eat some small mammals.


The call is a series of up to five soft hoots which on some recordings have a growling quality.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase
  3. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved Aug 2018)
  4. Wikipedia
  5. BF Member observations
  6. Birdforum thread with description of this species

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.