email a friend
printable version
Bearded Screech-owl Megascops barbarus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has been uplisted to Vulnerable because its range (extent of occurrence - EOO) has been more accurately calculated using new field data (Eisermann 2011); the bird is now known to have a small (9,780 km2) range, within which its pine-oak montane forest habitat is rapidly disappearing (Cayuela et al. 2006). As a consequence, its EOO, area of occupancy (AOO) and quality of habitat are inferred to be declining, and its habitat is now highly fragmented (Eisermann 2011). It is thus considered Vulnerable.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Otus barbarus Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), Otus barbarus Stotz et al. (1996), Otus barbarus BirdLife International (2004), Otus barbarus BirdLife International (2000), Otus barbarus Collar et al. (1994)

Distribution and population
Megascops barbarus is endemic to the highlands of Chiapas, south-east Mexico, and west Guatemala (Howell and Webb 1995a, del Hoyo et al. 1999).

Population justification
Partners in Flight estimated the population to number fewer than 50,000 individuals (A. Panjabi in litt. 2008), thus it is placed in the band 20,000-49,999 individuals here.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction. Montane forests in Chiapas have been reduced to less than 25% of their original area with an annual deforestation rate of at least 2.7% over the last 30 years (Cayuela et al. 2006).

This species is found in montane evergreen and humid pine-oak forest at elevations of 1,800-2,500 m (Howell and Webb 1995a). In Guatemala is also occurs in ten year old pine plantations (Eisermann 2011). Its diet consists mainly of large insects, particularly beetles, which are captured in the understorey by a sit-and-wait strategy (Enríquez & Cheng 2008). Breeding likely takes place between March and June (Enríquez & Cheng 2008). The only known nest was found in June 2001 2.45 m above ground in a natural cavity of a large living oak Quercus laurina; inside was an adult red-morph female brooding a single grey-morph nestling estimated to be 3 weeks old (Enríquez & Cheng 2008). Birds moult in the rainy season, from July to October (Enríquez & Cheng 2008).

Pine-oak forest is disappearing rapidly through logging for firewood and charcoal, agricultural expansion, urbanization and bark-beetle epidemics that are exacerbated by habitat degradation (Stattersfield et al. 1998, Ochoa-Gaona and González-Espinosa 2000). Civil war in Chiapas, Mexico, accelerated deforestation (P. J. Bubb in litt. 1997).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. No other targeted conservation action is known for this species. Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to assess the species's population size. Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation. Study the species's ecology (del Hoyo et al. 1999). Protect suitable habitat. Future research should focus on the breeding ecology, life history strategies, demography, and population trends to evaluate the conservation status of this species; this work will be essential for a better understanding of how habitat degradation may be
affecting this species’ survival (Enríquez & Cheng 2008).

Cayuela, L.; Rey Benayas, J.M.; Echeverría, C. 2006. Clearance and fragmentation of tropical montane forests in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico (1975–2000). Forest Ecology and Management 226: 208–218.

Cayuela, L.; Rey Benayas, J.M.; Echeverría, C. 2006. Clearance and fragmentation of tropical montane forests in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico (1975–2000). Forest Ecology and Management 226: 208–218.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1999. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 5: Barn-owls to Hummingbirds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Eisermann, K. 2011. Conservation status of Bearded Screech-owl Megascops barbarus. Proeval Raxmu, Coban, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.

Enríquez, P. L.; Cheng, K. M. 2008. Natural history of the threatened Bearded Screech-owl (Megascops barbarus) in Chiapas, Mexico. Journal of Raptor Research 42(3): 180-187.

Howell, S. N. G.; Webb, S. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Stattersfield, A. J.; Crosby, M. J.; Long, A. J.; Wege, D. C. 1998. Endemic bird areas of the world: priorities for bird conservation. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Capper, D., Sharpe, C J, Taylor, J.

Bubb, P., Eisermann, K., Enríquez, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Megascops barbarus. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Strigidae (Typical Owls)
Species name author (Sclater & Salvin, 1868)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 18,400 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species