Guatemalan screech owl
Middle American
screech owl
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Megascops
M. guatemalae
Binomial name
Megascops guatemalae

(Sharpe, 1875)
Otus guatemalae (Sharpe, 1875)

The Middle American screech owl (Megascops guatemalae), also known as the Guatemalan screech owl, is a species of owl in the family Strigidae and is usually found in forests and dense second growth. The taxonomy of this species and the vermiculated screech owl can be confusing. When split, the name vermiculated screech owl (M. vermiculatus) is used for the population from eastern Nicaragua to Panama, and this species is found from northern Mexico to Nicaragua. When conspecific, the English name vermiculated screech owl is used, but M. guatemalae is used for the scientific name since it is older. The “guatemalae” larger conspecific group usually includes the foothill screech owl, M. roraimae and the Choco screech owl, M. centralis.

With a length of 20 to 23 centimetres (7.9 to 9.1 in), it is a smaller than most other screech-owls. Unlike other owls of the same genus, it has feathered feet. It is dimorphic, with one morph overall grayish-brown and the other overall rufous. The tail is relatively long for an owl, the underside has conspicuous longitudinal stripes and some horizontal stripes. Its face is surrounded by a dark feather edge and it has relatively short ear tufts. The eyes are yellow. The beak is pale olive-greenish in color.


Currently, the Middle American screech owl has five recognized subspecies:

  • M. g. cassini (Ridgway, 1878)
  • M. g. dacrysistactus (R. T. Moore & J. L. Peters, 1939)
  • M. g. fuscus (R. T. Moore & J. L. Peters, 1939)
  • M. g. guatemalae (Sharpe, 1875)
  • M. g. hastatus Ridgway, 1887