Bearded Screech-owl Megascops barbarus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has been uplisted to Vulnerable because its range (extent of occurrence - EOO) has been more accurately calculated using new field data (K. Eisermann in litt. 2011); the bird is now known to have a small (9,780 km2) range, within which its pine-oak montane forest habitat is rapidly disappearing (Cayuela et al. 2006). As a consequence, its EOO, area of occupancy (AOO) and quality of habitat are inferred to be declining, and its habitat is now highly fragmented (K. Eisermann in litt. 2011). It is thus considered Vulnerable.

Population justification
Partners in Flight estimated the population to number fewer than 50,000 individuals (A. Panjabi in litt. 2008), thus it is placed in the band 20,000-49,999 individuals here.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction. Montane forests in Chiapas have been reduced to less than 25% of their original area with an annual deforestation rate of at least 2.7% over the last 30 years (Cayuela et al. 2006).

Distribution and population

This species is endemic to the highlands of Chiapas, south-east Mexico, and west Guatemala (Howell and Webb 1995a, del Hoyo et al. 1999, Eisermann and Avendaño 2015). In Chiapas, the total mean number of the species detected per linear trail was 1.65±0.61 individuals/km in nine locations (P. Enríquez in litt. 2016).


This species is found in montane evergreen and humid pine-oak forest at elevations of 1,800-2,500 m (Howell and Webb 1995a). In Guatemala it also occurs in ten year old pine plantations (K. Eisermann in litt. 2011). In Chiapas the species is most often  found in moist pine-oak and cloud forests, with fewer records from moist oak forest and pine forests (Enríquez 2007). Its diet consists mainly of large insects, particularly beetles, which are captured in the understorey by a sit-and-wait strategy (Enríquez and Cheng 2008). Breeding likely takes place between March and June (Enríquez and Cheng 2008, Enríquez 2011). In Guatemala the breeding season runs from March to May (K. Eisermann in litt. 2016). The only known nest was found in June 2001 2.45 m above ground in a natural cavity of a large living oak Quercus laurina; inside was an adult red-morph female brooding a single grey-morph nestling estimated to be 3 weeks old (Enríquez and Cheng 2008). Birds moult in the rainy season, from July to October (Enríquez and Cheng 2008). In the highlands of Chiapas the species has an estimated home range of c.20 ha for females and c. 23 ha for males (Enríquez 2007).


Pine-oak forest is disappearing rapidly through logging for firewood and charcoal, agricultural expansion, urbanization and bark-beetle epidemics that are exacerbated by habitat degradation (Stattersfield et al. 1998, Ochoa-Gaona and González-Espinosa 2000). Civil war in Chiapas, Mexico, accelerated deforestation (P. J. Bubb in litt. 1997).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. The PROEVAL RAXMU Bird Monitoring Programme has been studying the species's breeding biology, demography and habitat use in the Guatemalan highlands since 2010 (K. Eisermann in litt. 2016). The species is included on the 'Watch List' of the State of North America's Birds as a species of high conservation concern (NABCI 2016).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to assess the species's population size. Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation. Study the species's ecology (del Hoyo et al. 1999). Protect suitable habitat. Future research should focus on the breeding ecology, life history strategies, demography, and population trends to evaluate the conservation status of this species; this work will be essential for a better understanding of how habitat degradation may be
affecting this species’ survival (Enríquez & Cheng 2008). Provide nest boxes (P. Enríquez in litt. 2016).


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Capper, D., Sharpe, C J, Taylor, J., Ashpole, J

Eisermann, K., Bubb, P., Enríquez, P.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Megascops barbarus. Downloaded from on 26/11/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/11/2020.