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 reside locally from southern Utah and southern Colorado
south into central Mexico. Within the Colorado Plateau region in Colorado, they inhabit only the
Mesa Verde National Park area.
Habitat Requirements: Mexican Spotted Owls nest in steep canyons with dense stands of large
ponderosa pine or pinyon-juniper with Douglas-fir, and in old-growth mixed-conifer forest with
high canopy closure and open understory. They generally favor multi-storied stands with snags
and downed logs. In Canyonlands National Park in Utah, they also nest in deep canyons that lack
the dense coniferous cover. They nest in tree cavities and on cliff ledges.
Ecology: Mexican Spotted Owls form pair bonds in February and March and lay eggs in March
and April. Young birds fledge in June. These owls do not migrate, although individuals
sometimes move to lower elevations in winter. Their diet consists primarily of small- to medium-sized mammals, especially woodrats and white-footed mice; they also take voles, rabbits, and
Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: The primary threat Mexican
Spotted Owls face is the loss of mature trees to timber harvesting and to stand-replacement fires,
especially in steep canyons and in riparian zones. Even-aged management in particular is
detrimental because it eliminates habitat and 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
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 levels. This species is not adequately monitored, and no data from BBS or other
long-term monitoring are available. The U.S. Forest Service has conducted extensive surveys to
determine this species' range and abundance in Colorado. This species is monitored by MCB with
Biological Objective: Increase the species' distribution and abundance; progress toward meeting
the objective will be based upon results of the U.S. Forest Service surveys, MCB nocturnal
surveys, or other monitoring programs.
Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Gutiérrez et al. 1995, Kingery 1998.