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The Guatemalan Barn Owl

The Guatemalan Barn Owl (scientific name Tyto furcata guatemalae) not only lives throughout Guatemala but ranges from Guatemala through Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama. It looks very similar to the North American Barn Owl (Tyto furcata pratincola) but does have more spotting on chest and belly.

Barn owls in Guatemala are one of only four open country owls there.

In keeping with the kind of high levels of biodiversity in the tropics, the relatively small region of Guatemala contains 18 resident species of owls. The highest number of species (16) are found in the highlands, but the lowlands on both the Atlantic (13) and Pacific (12) slopes have a good number as well. Of the 18 species, 12 of them are forest specialists very much like our barred and spotted owls. The barn owl is one of only four open country hunters out of the eighteen.

Studies have shown that the barn owl is the fifth most common owl in Guatemala. There it hunts primarily rodents and raises its young in tree hollows. It also, without a doubt, inhabits farms and plantations where it preys on various rodent pests.

An excellent work on owls in Latin America is the book “Neotropical Owls” edited by Paula L. Enriquez. Much of the information in this article is indebted to the chapter on Guatemalan owls by Knut Eisermann and Claudia Avendano.