The Bare-shanked Screech-Owl is found from Costa Rica to extreme northwest Colombia, although it is largely absent from most of Panama, except the far west and the extreme east of the country. It is generally found at altitudes of 900 to 3300 m, and the species is strongly dependent on dense montane forest. Compared to other Megascops in the same range, it can be separated, given reasonable views, by its tawny facial discs, which lack any obvious rimmed effect, and its whitish-spotted underparts. It is also a relatively large screech-owl, with a proportionately large head, but small ear-tufts. However, like other Megascops, the Bare-shanked Screech-Owl is most likely to be located by its deep-whistled song, hu-hu, HOO-HOO hoo.