Bare-legged Owl

Margarobyas lawrencii
Population status:
Least Concern
Body length:
20-23 cm (7.8-9 in)
137-154 mm (5.3-6 in)
80 g (2.8 oz)
Bare-legged Owl


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Did you know?

  • The Bare-legged Owl is also known as the Cuban Screech Owl
  • Like the Barred Owl, the Bare-legged Owl has dark eyes.

Other Owls

How The Peregrine Fund is Helping

The Peregrine Fund is not working directly with Bare-legged Owls, but our conservation efforts through habitat protection, education, and community outreach extend to all raptor species, including this adorable owl. Our West Indies project helps conserve birds of prey throughout the Caribbean. We also supply literature to researchers from our avian research library, which helps scientists the world over gather and share important information on raptor conservation.We also support the Neotropical Raptor Network, which helps conserve raptors by fostering collaboration and communication among raptor enthusiasts in the region. 

Where They Live

As you may have guessed by its name, the Bare-legged Owl has bare legs! In other words, no feathers grow on its legs at all. It has dark eyes, and off-white facial disc. It also has dark rictal bristles, which are hair-like feathers that grow around the bird's beak. Though scientists are still working to understand the advantages of having rictal bristles, it is likely that they may serve as tactile sensors, and aid in navigation, among other things! Several bird species that hunt at twilight and at night have them. Unlike the Jamaican Owl, the Bare-legged Owl lacks ear tufts.

The Bare-legged Owl is found only on two islands in the entire world - Cuba and Isla de Juventud, an island off Cuba. It lives in a variety of habitats included wooded areas, different forest types, shrub areas, and even habitats that have been altered by humans.

What They Do

Like a majority of owl species, this small owl is nocturnal - meaning it goes about this business of hunting, flying, finding a mate and more during the night. 

During daylight hours, when most of us are awake, Bare-legged Owls roost or sleep in crevices, holes in trees, thick shrubs, or caves, where they remain out of sight of potential predators.

Why They Need Our Help

Thankfully, the Bare-legged Owl is classified as a species of Least Concern. That means that biologists aren't overly concerned about this species' population numbers. The fact that this species has a varied diet and can live in human-altered habitats certainly helps keep population numbers strong. 

What They Eat

Like all owls, the Bare-legged Owl is a carnivore. It catches insects, arthropods, and small reptiles and amphibians which it often captures on the ground.

Nests, Eggs, and Young

This small owl is reliant on other birds, such as woodpeckers, to help it find a place to nest! These owls nest in natural cavities found in trees, crevices and caves, but they also will lay their eggs in holes created by other species, such as woodpeckers! 

The female will lay 1-2 eggs which are mostly plain white. 

Sadly, scientist's don't know much more about the nesting habits of this bird, which means there is still so much to discover!

Bare-legged Owl and the World Center for Birds of Prey

The visitor center at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey includes owls among its avian ambassadors. Though we don't have a Bare-legged Owl on site, a visit to the facilities is a great way to see other owls up close and to learn about the wonderful and interesting adaptations they have in order to survive in their respective habitats. There is also a touch table with owl feathers and other natural objects available for exploration.


Barnes, J. (2020). Bare-legged Owl (Margarobyas lawrencii), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, B. K. Keeney, P. G. Rodewald, and T. S. Schulenberg, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Delaunay, M.G., Larsen, C., Lloyd, H., Sullivan, M. and Grant, R.A., 2020. Anatomy of avian rictal bristles in Caprimulgiformes reveals reduced tactile function in open‐habitat, partially diurnal foraging species. Journal of anatomy237(2), pp.355-366.