Tropical Screech-Owls occur from Costa Rica and Panama south across much of South America east of the Andes, south to northern Argentina and Uruguay. They also occur on Trinidad. Tropical Screech-Owls occur across northern Colombia, but are present on the west side of the Andes only in the lower Atrato drainage and in the upper Dagua valley (Hilty and Brown 1986). The species does not occur at all in western Ecuador or in western Peru, or in Chile.
This species is most common in the lowlands, but locally occurs at higher elevations. The upper elevational range is 1500 m in Costa Rica (Stiles and Skutch 1989); to 2800 m in Colombia (rarely to 3000 m; Hilty and Brown 1986); to 2400 m in Venezuela (Hilty 2003); to 650 m in Ecuador (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001); and to 2400 m in Peru (Schulenberg et al. 2007), although probably usually restricted to much lower elevations, e.g. only to 500 m in the Cosñipata valley in southeastern Peru: Walker et al. 2006).
Distribution outside the Americas
Endemic to the Americas.
Tropical Screech-Owls are found in a wide variety of habitats: "open woodland, streamside groves, coffee plantations, second growth, suburban areas with trees" (Stiles and Skutch 1989), and "dry to humid regions of lighter open woodland, tall second growth, terra firme and várzea forest borders, clearings with trees, and residential areas" (Hilty and Brown 1986). Does not occur in the interior of humid lowland forest. Usually does not occur in humid montane forest either, except for subspecies (or species?) duidae, of southern Venezuela; this poorly-known taxon has been found in "dense forest to Brocchinia/bamboo scrub to the high-elevation pitcher plant swamps" (Willard et al. 1991).
The Tropical Screech-Owl does not occur in the interior of closed-canopy humd forest, but only at forest edge. In areas that are experiencing rapid deforestation, however, such as in eastern Ecuador, the distribution of this species is predicted to expand (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001).
Ong, G. (2011). Tropical Screech-Owl (Megascops choliba), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.trsowl.01