Species Profile
Environmental Conservation Online System

Mexican Spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida)

Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae

Listing Status:   

Where Listed: WHEREVER FOUND

General Information

Unlike most owls, Mexican spotted owls have dark eyes. They are an ashy-chestnut brown color with white and brown spots on their abdomen, back and head. Their brown tails are marked with thin white bands. They lack ear tufts. Young owls less than 5 months old have a downy appearance. Females are larger than males.

Map of Species occurrence

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Map Image Map of Species occurrence Map of Species occurrence

This map represents our best available information about where a species is currently known to or or is believed to occur; however, it should NOT be used as an official species list for Section 7 Consultation purposes. To obtain an official species list for this purpose, please visit the Information, Planning, and Conservation (IPaC) System (click here: http://ecos.fws.gov/ipac)



This species is listed wherever it is found, but
Current Listing Status Summary
Status Date Listed Lead Region Where Listed
03/16/1993 Southwest Region (Region 2) Entire

» Federal Register Documents

Most Recent Federal Register Documents (Showing 5 of 19: view all)
Date Citation Page Title
02/06/2013 78 FR 8576 8577 5-Year Status Reviews of Ocelot and Mexican Spotted Owl in the Southwest Region; Notice of reviews; request for information
12/17/2012 77 FR 74688 74689 Notice of document availability: Final Recovery Plan, First Revision; Mexican Spotted Owl
06/24/2011 76 FR 37141 37142 Notice of Availability for Comment: Draft Recovery Plan, First Revision; Mexican Spotted Owl
08/31/2004 69 FR 53182 53298 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Designation of Critical Habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl
11/18/2003 68 FR 65020 65023 Endangered and Threatened wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl; Proposed Rule; Reopening of Public Comment Period

» Recovery

Recovery Plan Information Search
Current Recovery Plan(s)
Date Title Plan Action Status Plan Status
12/18/2012 Final Recovery Plan for the Mexican Spotted Owl, First Revision (Strix occidentalis lucida) View Implementation Progress Final Revision 1
Other Recovery Documents (Showing 3 of 3)
Date Citation Page Title Document Type
02/06/2013 78 FR 8576 8577 5-Year Status Reviews of Ocelot and Mexican Spotted Owl in the Southwest Region; Notice of reviews; request for information
  • Notice 5-year Review, Initiation
  • 12/17/2012 77 FR 74688 74689 Notice of document availability: Final Recovery Plan, First Revision; Mexican Spotted Owl
  • Notice Final Recovery Plan Availability
  • 06/24/2011 76 FR 37141 37142 Notice of Availability for Comment: Draft Recovery Plan, First Revision; Mexican Spotted Owl
  • Notice Draft Recovery Plan Availability
  • Five Year Review
    Date Title
    08/16/2013 5-Year-Review for Mexican Spotted Owl - 2013

    » Critical Habitat

    Current Critical Habitat Documents (Showing 5 of 7: view all)
    Date Citation Page Title Document Type Status
    08/31/2004 69 FR 53182 53298 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Designation of Critical Habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl Final Rule Final designated
    11/18/2003 68 FR 65020 65023 Endangered and Threatened wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl; Proposed Rule; Reopening of Public Comment Period Proposed Rule Not Required
    02/01/2001 66 FR 8530 8553 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Designation of Critical Habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl Final Rule Not Required
    07/21/2000 65 FR 45336 45353 Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl Proposed Rule Not Required
    06/06/1995 60 FR 29915 29951 ETWP; Determination of Critical Habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl Final Rule Not Required

    To learn more about critical habitat please see http://criticalhabitat.fws.gov

    » Conservation Plans

    Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP) (learn more) (Showing 1 of 1)
    HCP Plan Summaries
    Malpai Borderlands
    Safe Harbor Agreements (SHA): (learn more) (Showing 1 of 1)
    SHA Plan Summaries
    Paterson, Thomas W. and Caroline H. (Spur Ranch)

    » Petitions

    Most Recent Petition Findings (Showing 4 of 4)
    Date Citation Page Title Finding
    04/01/1994 59 FR 15361 15367 ETWP; 90-Day Finding on a Petition to Remove the Mexican Spotted Owl From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
  • Notice 90-day Petition Finding, Not substantial
  • 09/23/1993 58 FR 49467 49468 ETWP; Notice of 90-Day Finding on Petition to Remove the Mexican Spotted Owl From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants
  • Notice 90-day Petition Finding, Not substantial
  • 04/11/1991 56 FR 14678 14680 ETWP; 12-month Finding on Petition to List the Mexican Spotted Owl as Threatened or Endangered; 56 FR 14678 14680
  • Notice 12 month petition finding, Warranted
  • 03/28/1990 55 FR 11413 11414 ETWP; 90-day Finding on a Petition to List the Mexican Spotted Owl as Threatened or Endangered; 55 FR 11413 11414
  • Notice 90-day Petition Finding, Substantial
  • » Life History

    Habitat Requirements

    Spotted owls are residents of old-growth or mature forests that possess complex structural components (uneven aged stands, high canopy closure, multi-storied levels, high tree density). Canyons with riparian or conifer communities are also important components. In southern Arizona and New Mexico, the mixed conifer, Madrean pine-oak, Arizona cypress, encinal oak woodlands, and associated riparian forests provide habitat in the small mountain ranges (Sky Islands) distributed across the landscape. Owls are also found in canyon habitat dominated by vertical-walled rocky cliffs within complex watersheds, including tributary side canyons. Rock walls with caves, ledges, and other areas provide protected nest and roost sites. Canyon habitat may include small isolated patches or stringers of forested vegetation including stands of mixed-conifer, ponderosa pine, pine-oak, pinyon-juniper, and/or riparian vegetation in which owls regularly roost and forage. Owls are usually found in areas with some type of water source (i.e., perennial stream, creeks, and springs, ephemeral water, small pools from runoff, reservoir emissions). Even small sources of water such as small pools or puddles create humid conditions. Roosting and nesting habitats exhibit certain identifiable features, including large trees (those with a trunk diameter of 12 inches (in) (30.5 centimeters (cm)) or more (i.e., high tree basal area)), uneven aged tree stands, multi-storied canopy, a tree canopy creating shade over 40 percent or more of the ground (i.e., moderate to high canopy closure), and decadence in the form of downed logs and snags (standing dead trees). Canopy closure is typically greater than 40 percent. Owl foraging habitat includes a wide variety of forest conditions, canyon bottoms, cliff faces, tops of canyon rims, and riparian areas. Juvenile owls disperse into a variety of habitats ranging from high-elevation forests to pinyon-juniper woodlands and riparian areas surrounded by desert grasslands. Observations of long-distance dispersal by juveniles provide evidence that they use widely spaced islands of suitable habitat which are connected at lower elevations by pinyon-juniper and riparian forests. Critical habitat was finalized on August 31, 2004(69 FR 53182) in Arizona in Apache, Cochise, Coconino, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Maricopa, Navajo, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Yavapai counties.

    Food Habits

    Owls feed on small mammals, particularly mice, voles, and woodrats. They will also take birds, bats, reptiles and arthropods. The Mexican spotted owl is a "perch and pounce" predator, using elevated perches to find prey items using sight and sound. They can take prey on the wing, particularly birds. Most hunting is at night, however, there are some reports of diurnal foraging.

    Movement / Home Range

    Mated pairs are territorial. The breeding season activity centers tend to be smaller than the non-breeding season activity centers, with considerable overlap between the two. Adults may or may not leave the territory during the winter. Most adults remain on the same territory year after year. Juveniles leave their natal territory in September, and while they are capable of moving long distances, many successfully establish themselves nearby. Some juveniles will travel through a variety of vegetation communities until they settle down. Distribution: The owl occupies a broad geographical area, but does not occur uniformly throughout its range. Instead, the owl occurs in disjunct localities that correspond to isolated mountain systems and canyons. The owl is frequently associated with mature mixed-conifer (Douglas-fir (Psuedotsuga menziesii), white fir (Abies concolor), limber pine (Pinus flexilis) or blue spruce (Picea pungens)), pine-oak (ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Gambel oak (Quercus gambellii)), and riparian forests (various species of broadleaved deciduous trees and shrubs). Typically found between 4,100 and 9,000 feet of elevation. Ninety-one percent of known owls existing in the United States between 1990 and 1993 occurred on land administered by the U.S. Forest Service, the primary administrator of lands supporting owls. Most owls have been found within the 11 National Forests of Arizona and New Mexico. It is unknown why Colorado and Utah support fewer owls.

    Reproductive Strategy

    Mated pairs of owls defend a breeding territory at least during the nesting season (March through August). Clutch size is small (generally 1 to 3 eggs), and eggs hatch in early May. A second clutch may be laid if the first fails. The females brood the young owlets almost constantly the first couple of weeks, then may be gone hunting for several hours a day. Owlets fledge at 4 to 5 weeks old (early to mid June), and leave the nest before they can fly, moving to the tree branches or the ground while still under parental care. Dispersal from the nest area usually occurs from mid-September to early October. Mexican spotted owls breed sporadically, and not all birds nest every year. Local conditions, particularly for the prey base, may govern nesting success.

    Other

    Actions that open up or remove mature or old-growth forests (logging, wildfire, road or site construction that results in fragmentation of the forest) are detrimental to the local owl population. Human activity (hiking, shooting, off-road vehicle activity) in or near nesting, roosting, or foraging sites may result in abandonment of an area, and indirectly may affect habitat parameters from trampling, vegetation removal, or increased fire risk.

    » Other Resources

    NatureServe Explorer Species Reports -- NatureServe Explorer is a source for authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals and ecological communtities of the U.S and Canada. NatureServe Explorer provides in-depth information on rare and endangered species, but includes common plants and animals too. NatureServe Explorer is a product of NatureServe in collaboration with the Natural Heritage Network.

    ITIS Reports -- ITIS (the Integrated Taxonomic Information System) is a source for authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

    Last updated: October 26, 2014