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Middle American Screech-Owl - BirdForum Opus

Subspecies M. g. vermiculatus, "vermiculated Screech-Owl" (narrow sense).
Photo © by Don Gato
La Selva Biological Station (OTS), Sarapiqui de Heredia, Costa Rica, February 2005

Includes: Vermiculated Screech-Owl (narrowly defined; M. g. vermiculatus. See Vermiculated Screech-Owl for the former broadly defined (Clements) species of this name.)

Alternative name: Guatemalan Screech-Owl

Megascops guatemalae

Otus guatemalae


Includes both greyish and reddish morphs. Generally boldly patterned, including a row of white spots across shoulder. Underside paler than upperside but with black shaft streaks and cross markings. Wings do not reach beyond tip of tail. Eyes orange-yellow, bill greenish.


Widely distributed from northern Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula as well as to Costa Rica and probably to westhern Panama.


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.

Clements splits Middle American Screech-Owl from Choco Screech-Owl and Foothill Screech-Owl; this authority called the previous combined taxon "Vermiculated Screech-Owl".

Some authorities elevate subspecies vermiculatus as "Vermiculated Screech-Owl" (narrow sense), M. vermiculatus (e.g. [2]).


Clements recognises the following subspecies [1]:

  • M. g. hastatus: western Mexico (southeastern Sonora to Oaxaca)
  • M. g. cassini: eastern Mexico (southern Tamaulipas and northern Veracruz)
  • M. g. fuscus: Mountains of eastern Mexico (central Veracruz)
  • M. g. thompsoni: Yucatán Peninsula and Cozumel Island
  • M. g. guatemalae: mountains of southeast Mexico (southeast Veracruz and northeast Oaxaca) to Honduras
  • M. g. dacrysistactus: Mountains of northern Nicaragua
  • M. g. vermiculatus: "Vermiculated Screech-Owl". Costa Rica (and western Panama on the Caribbean side). [more vermiculations, shorter tail, leg feathering does not reach toes]


Lowland to mid-elevation in both humid and dryer forests and woodland.


Nocturnal, during daytime usually hiding in tree cavities or among branches with high leaf cover.

Food is mainly invertebrates with some small vertebrates taken.


  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. König, C. and F. Weick 2008. Owls of the World, second edition. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 978-0-7136-6548-2

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