The Crested Owl (Lophostrix cristata) is a widespread, strictly nocturnal species found inside humid forests from southern Mexico to Amazonian South America. Within its distribution, is unlikely to be confused with other species due to its long and pale ear-tufts.
Its deep growl is a distinctive sound at night in the forest of the Caribbean slope of the former Canal Area in central Panama (where I took these photos). However, localizing them at night is extremely difficult; this species like to call from the mid to upper level of the trees and always seems to be hidden.
Its diet consist mainly in big insects; however, it can include small mammals as well, like rodents. That's probably the case with this individual, photographed behind the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center this cloudy morning.
There are three recognized subspecies, of which two occur in Panama. The one supposedly found in central and eastern Panama (and northern South America), wedeli, differs from Amazonian nominate in its yellow eyes according to one reference; however, I do not know if this can be evaluated in daylight, but these photos (and many other from central Panama, in daylight as well) show no yellow at all. The subspecies stricklandi, found from western Panama to southern Mexico, differs in darker head coloration, yellow eyes and vocalizations.
This species generally roosts by day in tangled thickets, sometimes very low or along streams, and nest in tree holes. It is always a treat to find a day-roosting owl, and this was not the exception. For these, and many other reasons, is why we chose the Crested Owl as our Bird of the Month!
1. Angehr G, Dean R. The Birds of Panama. A Field Guide. Zona Tropical 2010.
2. Mikkola H. Owls of the World: a Photographic Guide. Second edition 2012.
3. Holt, W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L. & Kirwan, G.M. (2015). Crested Owl (Lophostrix cristata). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2015). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/55052 on 1 March 2015).