Mexican Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis lucida)
Associated Species: Other species that may use habitat in a similar way and/or respond similarly
to threats, management, and conservation activities include Flammulated Owl and Red-breasted
Distribution: Mexican Spotted Owls inhabit local areas from southern Utah and southern
Colorado south into central Mexico. Recent nesting in Colorado has been confirmed in only three
areas: Mesa Verde, the Wet Mountains, and near Pikes Peak.
Habitat Requirements: Mexican Spotted Owls nest in steep canyons with dense stands of large
ponderosa pine or pinyon-juniper with Douglas-fir, and in mature to old-growth mixed-conifer
forest with high canopy closure and open understory. Favored stands generally are multi-storied,
with snags and downed logs. They nest in tree cavities or on cliff ledges.
Ecology: Pair bonding probably occurs in February and March, and eggs are laid in March and
April. Young birds fledge in June. Members of this subspecies are nonmigratory, although
individuals sometimes move to lower elevations in winter. Their diet primarily consists of small-
to medium-sized mammals, especially woodrats and white-footed mice (Peromyscus spp.); they
also take voles, rabbits, and some birds.
Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: The primary threat is the loss of
mature trees to timber harvesting, and stand-replacement fires, especially in steep canyons and
riparian zones. Even-aged management in particular is detrimental as it not only eliminates habitat
but eventually results in stands that lack the multi-storied structure the owls prefer. Prescribed
burns outside of the breeding season can reduce the fuel load and lessen the potential for
catastrophic fires. The Mexican Spotted Owl Recovery Team recommendations include
protecting 240 ha (600 ac) of habitat around each nest (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1995).
Management activities should follow recommendations in the recovery plan.
Status and Reasons for Concern: This species has a high conservation need locally and
throughout its range. The Mexican Spotted Owl is listed as a Threatened Species at both the
federal and state (Colorado) levels. Because of its rarity and nocturnal habits, this species is not
monitored by the BBS, and no data are available from any other long-term monitoring programs.
The USFS and NPS monitor their known nest sites. This species is monitored by MCB with
Biological Objective: Increase the species' distribution and abundance based on results of USFS
surveys and MCB or other monitoring programs.
Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Gutiérrez et al. 1995, Kingery 1998.