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Aegolius ridgwayi

Unspotted Saw-whet Owl

  • Order: Strigiformes
  • Family: Strigidae
  • Polytypic 3 Subspecies

Authors: Enríquez, Paula L., M. C. Arizmendi, C. Rodríguez-Flores, and C. Soberanes-González


The Americas

Unspotted Saw-whet Owl is a resident and and  endemic species of the northern Neotropics. The distribution is in the highlands and montane forest. It occurs from Chiapas in southern Mexico (17° 11' N 92° 53' W); the central Meseta of Chiapas (Tenejapa; Hunn 1973) and the Huitepec Ecological Reserve Ecológica in San Cristóbal de Las Casas Municipality and Zinacantan), in Sierra Madre de Chiapas (Biosphere Reserve Volcán Tacaná), and in Northern Mountains (Álvarez del Toro 1980, Enríquez et al. 1993), south through the highlands of Guatemala (15° 00' N 90° 00' W; (Sacapulas, Quetzaltenango y Soloma; Baepler 1962) to northeastern El Salvador (Los Esemiles, where. J. T. Marshall, recorded this owl for first time in El Salvador in 1943 (Marshall 1943). In Costa Rica is distributed from central Costa Rica (Cordillera Volcánica Central and Cordillera de Talamanca, Volcán Irazu, and Candelaria and Dota mountains) south to northern Panama. In Panama is rare in Chiriquí Province in Barú Volcano, 2280 m (Friedmann et al. 1950, Wetmore 1968, Ridgely and Gwynne 1993, AOU 1998). There is one possible record from Oaxaca, southern Mexico, but this record requires confirmation (Binford 1989, AOU 1998). There are recent records in Chiapas during 2010 in the Huitepec Ecological Reserve and Biosphere Reserve Volcán Tacaná (2011).

The elevational range of Unspotted Saw-whet Owl is from 1660-3000 m in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador; 2200-to 2928 m in the highlands of Costa Rica m (Holt et al. 1999, König and Weick 2008); and from 2100 to 3475 m in Panama (Ridgely and Gwynne 1993).

Outside the Americas

Endemic to the Americas.


Unspotted Saw-whet Owl occurs in montane forest with a temperate humid climate. It has been recorded in forest canopy, but also in borders or some times in open areas with isolated trees but close to the forest (P.L. Enríquez, personal observations). Some vegetation variables that are correlated with the presence of this species are canopy cover, the number of trees with DBH of 6-15 cm, and litterfall (Martínez-Ortega 2010). Canopy cover has been reported as important for other owl species, because it is used as refuge and protection to predators, or provides protection during adverse climatic conditions and roosting sites (Enriquez 2007).

Vegetation types where the Unspotted Saw-whet Owl occurs are oak humid forest and cloud forest (Holt et al. 1999, König and Weick 2008). Some plant species in pine-oak forest are Quercus crassifolia, Q. rugosa, Q. laurina, Q. candicas, Q. skutchii, Q. crispipilis, Oreopanax xalapensis, Rapanea juergensenii, Pinus ayacahuite, P. oaxacana, P. ocarpa, and others. In cloud forest, representative species are Q. laurina, Q. crassifolia, Cleyera theaeoides, Persea americana, Styrax argenteus, Drimys sp., Miconia sp., Oreopanax sp., and Rhamnus sp. (Ramírez-Marcial et al. 1998).

Historical changes

None reported.

Fossil history

None reported.

Recommended Citation

Enríquez, Paula L., M. C. Arizmendi, C. Rodríguez-Flores, and C. Soberanes-González. 2012. Unspotted Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius ridgwayi), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map is based on the maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website. The data for these maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.