17 Amaze-wing Facts About The Mottled Owl For Kids

How many fun mottled owl facts do you already know? Brush up your knowledge with this quick fact sheet!

When Halloween rolls around, all of us are looking for a good spook! Some turn to movies, others turn to good old horror documentaries, but if you are looking for a real-life scare, then you should definitely go looking for a mottled owl! As their name suggests, they have earned the moniker for being poorly colored, feathered, mottled brown, and unattractive. However, they are very scary, even though there have been no cases of people being attacked by this bird. Their creepiness comes not just from their looks but their low-pitched hooting sounds that are enough to set anyone's teeth of an edge. They are mostly found in Central and South America, in locations such as Mexico (south), and other places. They are also known for their surprising accuracy in catching prey by their throat, as well as, their fearsome description.

Want to know more about the description and habitat of these birds? Then read on, and also take a look at other equally interesting birds like the bearded vulture and the swallow-tailed kite.

Mottled owl

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small Mammals

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

6-11 oz (175-320 g)

How long are they?

11-14 in (28-36 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?


Skin Type


What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them



Central and South America





Scientific Name

Strix virgata





Mottled Owl Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a mottled owl?

The mottled owl (Strix virgata) is a type of owl native to Central and South America.

What class of animal does a mottled owl belong to?

The mottled owl belongs to class Aves.

How many mottled owls are there in the world?

The population distribution range of this widespread species is about 500,000-5,000,000 individuals. In Finland, roughly 600 couples of great grey owls are thought to live.

Where does a mottled owl live?

These medium-sized owl species live in the woods. This owl species is observed in South and Central America from Mexico through Brazil including  Argentina. They live in jungles and dry forests at heights of around 8202 ft (2,500 m) above sea level and are territorial.

What is a mottled owl's habitat?

The mottled owl can survive in forest areas such as rainforests, dry thorn forests, woodland verges, plantations, and pine or oak woodlands. Their habitats are wide-ranging and diversified. They also prefer habitats like broad landscapes with scattered trees, which are commonly near villages and towns. These strictly nocturnal species, also use tropical rainforests, tropical lowland forests, with the humid evergreen forests as their habitats.

Flammulated owls are migratory and habitat in huge tree woods. But the habitat of highland pine forests is uncommon. The flammulated owl derives its name from flame-like dark markings on the face.

Who do mottled owls live with?

Mottled owls are strictly nocturnal in behavior and are solitary birds.

How long does a mottled owl live?

There is no information known on this species' lifetime range.

How do they reproduce?

The mottled owl species breed in Colombia from February to May and in Argentina from September to November. The female lays one to two white eggs. Eggs are incubated by females. Both parents look after the eggs and offspring. It normally builds its nest in a tree hole, although it may also use an empty nest on the trees established by another bird. The mottled owl's wings have the capability to clap in flight, as a part of courtship display.  Also, they can sneak up on their prey without being seen.

What is their conservation status?

This bird of Central and South America is listed as of Least Concern by the IUCN. The status of conservation for the whiskered screech owl is Least Concern as well.

Mottled Owl Fun Facts

What do mottled owls look like?

The mottled owl is a tropical American medium-sized owl.

It has a dark body, including a brown and buff head, wings, and back.  The color of the abdomen and breasts are off-white with strong streaking and the throat and chest have vertical bars. A light-colored facial disc with buffy streaks and an unfinished buffy border surrounds its eyes. Mottled owl's eyes are dark brown.

In some areas of its range, a pale variant can be found, generally in drier settings. It has a huge, round-headed look due to the lack of ear tufts. Its bill is yellow-gray to bluish-gray and yellow gray toes with naked, buff-shade feet. Males and females have similar appearances, but there is significant sexual dimorphism in terms of length.

How cute are they?

These owls are not cute. In fact, many people have confessed that if seen at night, these owls can look downright scary.

How do they communicate?

Mottled owls are located in dry forests at elevations of up to 8202 ft (2,500 m) above sea level produce a range of calls. Whistles, hoots, screeches, purrs, screams, snorts, hisses and chitters, are among the vocalizations used by these territorial owls. Hoot calls of males are lower-pitched than females. The male and female mottled wood owl call is an antiphonal chorus.

How big is a mottled owl?

The length range of mottled owl (Ciccaba virgata species) is 11-14 in (28-36 cm). While the length range of mottled wood owls is about 16-19 in (41-48 cm). Thus wood owls are bigger than mottled owls, both sharing the same order, family, genus. However, the mottled owl male is smaller than the female.

How fast can a mottled owl fly?

These nocturnal brown mottled owl species have huge wings in comparison to their body mass, allowing them to fly at a very slow speed. Huge species like the barn owl fly as slow as 2 mph (3 kph) by gliding silently with very little flapping.

How much does a mottled owl weigh?

The weight range of this species, found in forest habitats, is 6.-11 oz (175-320 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male and female mottled owls have no specific name.

What would you call a baby mottled owl?

There is no special name for a baby mottled owl although a baby owl is known as an 'owlet'.

What do they eat?

Beetles, cockroaches, and grasshoppers are examples of big insects that these nocturnal owls eat. They also eat small mammals, lizards, birds, salamanders, snakes, and frogs, among other things. Mottled owls hunt largely from perches near forest edges.

These birds hunt for food by perching on a perch and swooping down to seize prey. Mottled owls have a great vision for low-light conditions with quite a sensitive hearing because of their nocturnal behavior.

Are they poisonous?

Mottled owls (Ciccaba virgata) are not poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

While pet owls (like the mottled owl),  have now been popularised in movies and books (like the Harry Potter movies), owl species are not really a suitable choice for pets. When protecting their young, partners, or territories, owls of all species have been known to be aggressive towards humans. Victims of owl attacks frequently leave without injuries, and owl attacks seldom result in death.

Did you know...

Mottled owls' characteristics such as tremulous spooky sounds at dusk and dawn make them easy to spot even in an otherwise dark forest. Talk about a horror show!

What is the difference between a mottled owl and a barn owl?

Mottled owls belong to the Strigidae family, which includes common and true owls, while the western barn owl belongs to a Tytonidae family, which includes barn owls. Mottled owls are huge, stocky birds with round faces and speckled brown and white feathers.  Brown vertical bars on white dominate the owls' underparts, with horizontal lines on their chests, white and brown striped wings, and medium-length tails.

Barn owls are thin birds with heart-shaped white faces, whitish breasts, and underwings, and a mixture of buff and gray on the head and top wings. Males have a lighter complexion than females. Their legs are long, their wings are long and rounded, and their tails are short.

Mottled owls make a series of characteristic 'whoo' and 'hoot' tones while they communicate. Barn owls never make a sound. They are known to make rasping sounds and piercing screeches.

How did mottled owls get their name?

From Mexico through Brazil along with Argentina, the mottled owl can be observed in South and Central America. The back and head have a mottled brown color with the yellow-grey bill, while the underparts are light pale. The throat and chest have vertical bars. Their eyes are dark, their heads are round, pale brown facial disc, feet are buff-colored and they lack ear tufts. John Cassin, the ornithologist of America, granted the scientific name in 1849. They are also very common, and therefore, easy to spot in the forests, so be careful if you ever go that way!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our burrowing owl facts and griffon vulture facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable cute owl family coloring pages.



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