Mottled Owl - Ciccaba virgata or Strix virgata - 'Mottley'

mottled owl

Mottley joined our team in May 2009, and came as a ball of beige coloured fluff, with large, blinking, black eyes. Irresistible as a youngster, and matured into a beautiful brown striated owl.  Quite a delicate little soul - currently our smallest owl - and very vulnerable in the cold winter, these owls do need good shelter and plenty of food in the cold winter months.  He is a splendid little aerobat in the Barn, swooping long and low, finishing with a fast little flutter at the end of each flight.  One of our little stars!

One very cold winter's night in 2012 little Mottley was very cold, and at 10pm when we checked him was laid in a heap on the floor.  We brought him inside and I took him to bed with me.  There appeared to be very little life there and no movement, but I laid him close to my chest, and kept him warm.  Slowly he started to recover, and by the morning started to regain his strength to stand up - Mottley and I have had a special relationship ever since and we have never let him get so cold since!!


Mottled owls are found from Central America, south into South America, inhabiting dry areas and forests up to 7500ft. Its habitat is very extensive and diverse ranging from dry thorn forests to humid evergreen jungles.

The Mottled Owl is midsize, 13 - 15 inches in length and strictly nocturnal. It has a varied diet consisting of large insects and beetles, small mammals and birds, snakes, lizards, salamanders and frogs. It is considered an opportunistic feeder, hunting mainly from a perch, often along a forest edge, or through a clearing, probably largely occupying the middle storey of the rainforest.

The Mottled Owl usually lays 1 to 2 eggs between February and May. It generally nests in a hole in a tree or in the top of a broken off palm and sometimes even in vacant nests of other birds. These owlets grow rapidly, and are soon leaving their nest and exploring the surrounding areas by 4-5 weeks old.