Spotted Owl
(Strix occidentalis)


Picture of bird
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Of the three recognized subspecies of Spotted Owl, only the caurina subspecies occurs in Canada (Gutiérrez et al. 1995). It lives in old growth coniferous forests in the southwestern mainland of British Columbia, where its numbers have dwindled from about 200 individuals in 1992 to fewer than 20 individuals in 2007 (COSEWIC 2008e). In fact, the Spotted Owl was recorded in only one square of the British Columbia Breeding Bird Atlas between 2008 and 2012. Habitat loss and competition from Barred Owls are two important threats to this species in Canada, but the biggest hurdle it now faces is that the few remaining individuals are isolated in small pockets of fragmented habitat (COSEWIC 2008e). The caurina subspecies of the Spotted Owl is Endangered in Canada; the species is declining throughout its small continental range. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Endangered2008Spotted Owl caurina subspecies
SARA (Canada)Endangered2003Spotted Owl caurina subspecies
IUCN (Global)Near threatened2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow D2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Critically imperiled2015 
State of North America’s BirdsWatch list2016 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge DecreaseHighNot Applicable
Spotted Owl caurina subspeciesLarge DecreaseHighBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada< 50 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

Conservation and management

Few bird species have attracted more conservation and management attention in the past few decades than the Spotted Owl. In Canada and the northwestern United States, the species requires large home ranges (2100-4000 ha) in mature or old growth coniferous forests (Gutiérrez et al. 1995). More than half of such habitat has been lost to forest harvest and agricultural and urban developments in the Squamish and Chilliwack Forest Districts in the past century, and much that remains is in small fragments at higher elevations (COSEWIC 2008e). The Barred Owl, a new immigrant to forests west of the Rockies, is a strong competitor for territories and prey since it arrived in the 1970s; by the mid-1990s it was four times as abundant as Spotted Owls within the latter species’ range in British Columbia (COSEWIC 2008e). No juvenile Spotted Owls in the Canadian population are known to have survived to adulthood since monitoring began in the 1990s (COSEWIC 2008e). Current plans to conserve this species in Canada include the protection of all sites where Spotted Owls were known to occur in 2005, the removal of Barred Owls from active Spotted Owl breeding territories, and the implementation of a captive breeding program (Chutter 2015a). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view the Recovery Strategy, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Northern Pacific RainforestNorthern Pacific Rainforest, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation