Peruvian Screech-Owl

Megascops roboratus
Population status:
Least Concern
Body length:
20–22 cm (7.8-8.6 in)
Weight:
144–162 g
Peruvian Screech_Owl_Fernando Angulo

Fernando Angulo/CORBIDI

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Did You Know?

  • There are two subspecies of the Peruvian Screech-Owl: Megascops roboratus roboratus, and Megascops roboratus pacificus
  • This species is also known as the West Peruvian Screech-Owl, and comes in two color morphs: red and gray.

 

Other Owls

How The Peregrine Fund is Helping

The Peregrine Fund is not working directly with Peruvian Screech-Owls, but our conservation efforts through habitat protection, education, and community outreach extend to all raptor species, including this owl. We also supply literature to researchers from our avian research library, which helps scientists around the world gather and share important information on raptor conservation. And, we support the Neotropical Raptor Network that promotes raptor conservation by helping create collaboration and communication among conservationists in the region. We also have created the Global Raptor Impact Network, which gives raptor researchers tools to more efficiently conduct their own studies while contributing to a global program. GRIN also provides citizen scientists a way to participate in raptor science and conservation.

Where They Live

The Peruvian Screech-Owl is found in areas of northern Peru and southern Ecuador. This owl favors arid, deciduous woodlands dotted with scattered shrubs or bushes, usually between 500 and 1200 meters in elevation, though it has been reported at elevations of over 2,000 in parts of its range. The pacificus race, on the other hand, usually goes about its business of hunting, nesting, and roosting below 500 meters meters in elevation, in arid scrub habitats dotted with a mix of shrubs cacti, and shorter trees. It is also found in deciduous forests and along the coast. 

What They Do

Though there is a lot we still need to learn about this species, there are a few things we do know about its behavior. It seems that this owl is strictly nocturnal - meaning it is active at night and rests, or roosts, during the day. This owl has piercing yellow eyes and small ear tufts on the side of its head. Ear tufts aren't actually ears at all. They are small feathers that stick up on the sides of its head which look somewhat like ears. These feathers are used in non-verbal communication - often helping individuals recognize each other, and to help the owls camouflage. 

And speaking of ears, most owls have asymmetrical ear openings. This means that one ear opening is located higher up on one side of the head, while the other ear opening is located lower on the other side of the head. There can also be one ear opening that is a bit farther forward on the head while the ear opening on the other side of the head is a bit farther back. The ear positions can be any combination of high, low, forward, and back! This helps owls better triangulate sounds, thus finding prey that much easier.

Why They Need our Help

The Peruvian Screech-Owl is categorized as a species of Least Concern. However, this doesn't mean that the Peruvian Screech-Owl isn't facing any threats. In fact, the biggest threat to its survival is loss of habitat. When trees and shrubs are lost - often due to the high number of domestic goats grazing in the area - these owls lose important roosting and nesting habitat. While they can likely find enough food to eat in these degraded habitats, without tree cavities in which to safely nest, the population won't be able to hold out for very long. 

What They Eat

Like so many other small owls of South America, the Peruvian Screech-Owl has not been well-studied. This is good news for researchers who are looking for a species to study! But, it also means that we are missing valuable information that could help us better conserve this owl. Based on what we know of other screech-owls, it is likely that this owl feeds mostly on large insects. Biologists have documented it feeding on such tasty treats as cockroaches,  caterpillars, and crickets. They will also feed on beetles and their larvae, grasshoppers, and more. 

Nests, Eggs, and Young

You probably won't be surprised to learn that we don't know very much about the nesting habits of this owl. We know that they rely on tree cavities in which to lay their eggs. They might also use old nests built by other species, including in old nests built by a bird called the Pale-legged Hornero.

We know, based on one nest, that the female was incubating 2 eggs at the time of the nest's discovery. But so many questions remain. Does the female only lay two eggs? Might she lay more? Does only the female incubate or does the male help too? How long do the young stay in the nest and how long are they dependent on their parents? There are so many questions we still hope to answer about this lovely owl. 

Peruvian Screech-Owl and the World Center for Birds of Prey

Come to The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey and meet Rusty, our Eastern Screech-Owl, and Winston, our Western Screech-Owl. They are often out greeting visitors during bird presentations and sit comfortably on their handlers' gloves, which allows you to get a close up view of these exceptionally cute raptors. Additionally, the World Center for Birds of Prey offers fun ways to learn about birds of prey. Interactive activities, tours, interesting videos and a children's room feature activities from coloring sheets to quizzes to costumes. There is also a touch table with owl feathers and other natural objects for exploration.

References:

BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Megascops roboratus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 10/09/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 10/09/2021.

Holt, D. W., R. Berkley, C. Deppe, P. L. Enríquez, J. L. Petersen, J. L. Rangel Salazar, K. P. Segars, K. L. Wood, and J. S. Marks (2020). Peruvian Screech-Owl (Megascops roboratus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.persco1.01

Perrone, M. JR. Adaptive Significance of Ear Tufts in Owls. 1981. Condor 83. The Cooper Ornithological Society pp.83-384