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Choco Screech-Owl - BirdForum Opus

Choco Screech-Owl, M. g. centralis
Photo © by COLOMBIA Birding
Canopy Tower, Panama, September 2012
Megascops centralis


20-23 cm
Occurs in both a grey and a rufous phase. These colors mainly influence the uppersides where there are black marking mostly in the form of vermiculations. On the folded wings is a stripe of white dots. Underside paler, still with relatively indistinct pattern. Face with light markings, indistinct rim and paler but not always visible eyebrows. Eyes are yellow and bill greenish yellow or greenish ivory. Legs are unfeathered on the distal third.

Similar species

Tropical Screech-Owl is sympatric or allopatric in much of the range and differs in being larger, paler, less mottled and more streaked.


Found from the canal zone of Panama to Colombia (Cauca and Magdalena valleys) and west of the Andes to western Ecuador and possibly to northwest Peru.


This and almost all Screech-Owls in the Americas have previously been considered to belong in the same genus (Otus) as the European and Asian Scops-Owls, but a reassignment to Megascops have been accepted by all main world authorities.

Choco Screech-Owl was split from Middle American Screech-Owl and Foothill Screech-Owl; when they were together, they were known as Vermiculated Screech-Owl.

This is a monotypic species[1].


Humid forests, edges and second growth. Mostly registered below 1000 m asl, but occasionally significantly higher.


Likely food items include insects and other invertebrates as well as small vertebrates. It has been observed catching insects by a light post.


This species is vocal year round but with stronger activity at the start of breeding season. The common sound is a trill off about 1.2 seconds duration with around 23 elements per second. The pitch starts level or slightly increasing but then falls off in the second half.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2021. IOC World Bird List (v 11.2). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.11.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  3. Greeney, H. F. and J. F. Freile (2020). Choco Screech-Owl (Megascops centralis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, B. K. Keeney, P. G. Rodewald, and T. S. Schulenberg, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.versco2.01

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