The Bearded Screech-Owl is a nocturnal species and is endemic to a small region in the northern part of the Neotropics, in the highlands of Chiapas (Mexico) and of Guatemala. It inhabits temperate habitats from 1800-2500 m in elevation, in humid pine-oak and cloud forests. The Bearded Screech-Owl is an insectivorous species, and feeds on beetles, grasshoppers, moths and caterpillars.
Common names for this species include Bearded Screech-Owl, Santa Barbara Screech-Owl, Bridled Screech-Owl, Tecolote Barbudo, Tecolote Grillo, Tecolote Ocotero, Tecolote Bigotón (Chiapas), and Autillo Barbudo (Spain) (Álvarez del Toro 1971, Birkenstein and Tomlinson 1981, Howell and Webb 1995, del Hoyo et al. 1999). The scientific name M. barbarus is from the type locality (Santa Bárbara, Vera Paz, Guatemala), and is not related to the common name "Bearded," as some have believed (J. T. Marshall, personal communication).
Knowledge of the natural history of the Bearded Screech-Owl is limited, with little or no information on its abundance, habitat use and population trends. In 2001 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Bird Life International 2008) listed this species as Least Concern, although in Mexico it has been considered as an endangered species (DOF 2002); more recently, in Mexico it has been listed as in peril of extinction (DOF 2010). This conservation status was determined because it is an endemic and restricted-range species, and in view of the lack of ecological and biological knowledge, and because the habitat of the Bearded Screech-Owl has been severely fragmented.