Puerto Rican Screech-owl
Strigiforme Order – Strigidae Family
Length: 23-25 cm
Weight: 100-150 g
Puerto Rican Screech-Owl is a medium-sized owl which occurs in two morphs, brown and rufous. This species is endemic to Puerto Rico.
The adult in brown morph has brown upperparts with pale spots and narrow dark brown bars. On scapulars, outer webs can be white. Flight feathers and tail are barred dark brown and white.
Underparts are paler than upperparts, becoming paler and even whiter towards belly. We can see numerous dark shaft-streaks and bars, mainly on upper breast, whereas belly is less marked.
Fr : Petit-duc de Porto Rico
Puerto Rico: Múcaro Puertorriqueño
Esp: Autillo Portorriqueño
Ital: Assiolo di Portorico
Nd: Puertoricaanse Schreeuwuil
Russe: Совка пуэрториканская
Photograhs by Alfredo Colón
Puerto Rico Wildlife
Text by Nicole Bouglouan
HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 5 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliott-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334253
Head is rounded and lacks ear-tufts. Facial disk is indistinct, rather dark, with white eyebrows. Lores and chin are whitish.
The hooked bill is greenish-yellow and surrounded at base with conspicuous dark brown rictal bristles. Eyes are reddish-brown.
The upperpart of legs is feathered. Lower part and toes are yellow.
Adult is rufous morph is less marked.
Both sexes are similar, with female slightly larger than male.
Juvenile has olive-brown upperparts, and underparts are pale rufous, conspicuously barred dark brown. Head and neck are paler brown.
We find two subspecies:
Megascops nudipes nudipes, from Puerto Rico
Megascops nudipes newtoni, from Vieques and Virgin Islands. This one is tinged rufous and has more uniform underparts. Very rare.
VOICE: SOUNDS BY XENO-CANTO
Puerto Rican Screech-Owl’s typical call is a guttural quavering trill of 3-5 seconds long. It utters another shorter trill, starting softly and rising in pitch, and then fading away.
Female utters similar sounds but higher-pitched.
Contact call is a soft cackling “gu-gu”. This species also utters loud “coo-coo” sounds, giving the name of “Cuckoo-bird” in the Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rican Screech-Owl frequents woodlands and forests of all types. It prefers dense wooded areas and thickets, and large trees in urban areas. It may be seen from sea-level up to 900 metres of elevation.
It roosts by day in trees with dense foliage, and in caves.
Puerto Rican Screech-Owl is found in Puerto Rico, Isla de Vieques and Virgin Islands.
As most of the nocturnal owls, it spends the day in concealed sites, among foliage and branches, in cavities or caves. Thanks to the cryptic plumage, owls are protected against predators during the daylight time.
Usually, the nocturnal owls perform silent flight, thanks to their soft and flexible feathers.
Breeding season occurs from April to June.
Puerto Rican Screech-Owl nests in cavities such as caves, crevices in cliffs or holes in trees.
Female lays 2-3 white eggs. She incubates the eggs while she is fed by the male during this period.
The chicks are covered with whitish down.
The eggs are preyed upon by Pearly-eyed Thrasher (Margarops fuscatus) which is another Puerto Rican species.
Puerto Rican Screech-Owl feeds mainly on large insects such as crickets and grasshoppers. It also takes small vertebrates, occasionally small birds or rodents, and lizards (geckos).
Puerto Rican Screech-Owl is common in Puerto Rico, but the species is Critically Endangered in the Virgin Islands.
The race “newtoni” is very rare, even maybe extinct.
Populations’ numbers decline, due to egg-predation by Pearly-eyed Thrasher, and clearing of forests for agriculture development.
Puerto Rican Screech-Owl hunts by night. It feeds mainly on large insects and occasionally small vertebrates.
Preys are probably caught on the ground, the bird swooping down from a perch. It catches the prey using the talons, mainly for large insects.
It ejects pellets with the hardest parts of the preys.
Puerto Rican Screech-Owl is resident within its range.