450px-Megascops choliba -Ceara, Brazil-8
Tropical Screech Owls (Megascops choliba) are a small species of owl that belong to the family Strigidae.

Range and Habitat

The Tropical Screech Owl is found throughout South America (including Trinidad and Tobago), except in the Andes, the arid Pacific lowlands, and the far south. Its distribution also extends into southern Central America in Costa Rica and Panama. It is generally common – in large parts of its range among the most common species of owls and likely the most common screech owl of the tropics. It occurs in a wide range of wooded habitats, ranging from arid caatinga to dense rainforest, and even city parks.

Physical Description

This polymorphic species is highly variable in color, it being overall grey-brown or (less commonly) brown or rufous, but always with a relatively distinctive blackish edge to the face and yellow irides. Its height is 21–23 cm (8.3–9 in.) tall, and it weighs 97-160 grams (3.4-5.7 oz.).



The Tropical Screech Owl forages from a low level perch and captures prey on the ground, branches, or on wing. This species primarily preys on large arthropods, comprising about 66% of prey, and small vertebrates, comprising about 33%. Known invertebrate prey has included earthworms, scorpions, spiders, harvestmen, and a wide variety of insects, including roaches, termites, grasshoppers, katydids, raspy crickets, crickets, mole crickets, mantids and various beetles, moth, caterpillars and ants. Known vertebrate prey has included small frogs, small snakes, birds, opossums, bats, and various rodents.


Males usually start singing in August or early September. Courtship mostly occurs in September. Males advertize possible nesting sites to females by flying to them and singing from the entrance. The clutch of 1 to 3 eggs (sometimes 6) are typically laid directly in natural cavities, abandoned bird nests, nest boxes, old woodpecker holes, or even rotted-out fence posts. If feeling threatened during brooding, they will throw themselves flat on their back over the nestlings and extend their claws toward the intruder. In flight, they will also strike humans with their claws.

Tropical Screech Owl chicks are covered with white down, sparser on the dorsal area, and their legs and feet are pale pink. The bill is pearl gray and has a white egg tooth. The nestlings' eyes are closed at birth, but begin to open by the sixth day, and may not become fully open until the tenth day. Fledging occurs around one month of age.

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