Spectacled Owl at Turrialba

Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata): Buho de anteojos; Brillenkauz; Chouette à lunettes

With the exception of the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) of North America, which is considered accidental in Costa Rica, the Spectacled Owl is the largest and most dominant species. It can reach 52 cm in length. In its habits it is solitary outside the reproductive season. Fledglings are almost pure white in colour. After my previous post on a daylight sighting of the Striped Owl (Asio clamator), this week’s report of the Spectacled Owl is the first of the year in the Turrialba area. Fortunately it appeared in daylight and was able to be photographed by multiple observers:

Spectacled Owl at Turrialba; photo by John Beer

The Spectacled Owl preys chiefly on rodents and medium-sized birds seized at their nocturnal roosts, including Brown Jays (Psilorhinus morio), who mob this owl furiously when seen during the day. But there are reports of it taking prey of a body size much larger than its own, even including one report involving a three-toed sloth.

It is found from southern Mexico south to northern Argentina. In some parts of Costa Rica it is not a rare species and its call, described as being ‘like a sheet of metal being flexed quickly’, is highly distinctive. On previous occasions in other regions I have heard the species calling but without getting more than a glimpse of the typical ‘spectacles’. I’m hoping that this individual will stay true to its location until I am able to observe more closely this truly spectacular (pardon the pun) species.

I’ll end with another of John’s photographs of the same individual:

Spectacled Owl in broad daylight; photo by John Beer

With its great variety of habitats ranging from the Rio Pacuare up to the high slopes of its volcano, the Turrialba area continues to be a real hot-spot for bird sightings.

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