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The Mexican spotted owl occurs in a variety of habitats, consisting of mature montane forests, shady canyons, and steep canyons. The key components in montane forests appear to be characteristics common in old-growth forests: uneven-age stands with high canopy closure and tree density, fallen logs and snags.
The Mexican spotted owl has the largest geographic distribution of any of the S. occidentals subspecies.
Historically, the owl ranged from the southern Rocky Mountains in Colorado; the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah; southward through Arizona, New Mexico, and far western Texas; in Mexico through the Sierra Madre Occidental and Oriental mountains and the southern end of the Mexican Plateau. Presently, the owl's range reflects the historic range, but owl numbers are much reduced and habitat is patchy.
Owls feed on small mammals, particularly mice, voles, and woodrats. They will also take birds, bats, reptiles and arthropods. The Mexican spotted owl is a "perch and pounce" predator, using elevated perches to find prey items using sight and sound. The owl will spend minutes, even hours, perched on a branch waiting for prey to venture near. When prey is spotted, the owl swoops down and grabs the prey with its talons. They can take prey on the wing, particularly birds. Most hunting is at night, however, there are some reports of diurnal foraging.
Mating begins mid-February to March and egg-laying follows in April to May. The owls usually use nests built by other animals. The female lays one to three eggs which are incubated for twenty-eight to thirty-two days. The young owlets fledge in June, thirty-four to thirty-six days after hatching. By October, the young are fully independent.