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RUFOUS-LEGGED OWL } Strix rufipes

RANGE: From central Chile and south Argentina (Patagonia) south to Tierra del Fuego; sometimes found on the Falkland Islands

STATUS: Status is uncertain; named a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List

THREATS: Forest destruction and pesticide use

By night, rufous-legged owls hunt for birds, reptiles, insects, and small, tree-dwelling mammals. By day, they roost on the branches of lichen-covered trees, in dense foliage, or in natural tree cavities in moist, moss-covered forests on mountain slopes and lowlands. A medium-sized, round-headed owl with dark-brown eyes and no ear tufts, this species boasts a layer of orange-brown to cinnamon-buff feathers on both its legs and its toes. Although it was discovered back in 1828, the owl is elusive, so its ecology, behavior, vocalizations, and nesting biology have been very little studied, and not many humans have had the privilege of hearing its call — a few low, grunting notes followed by a series of high-pitched nasal noises. While the rufous-legged owl thankfully isn’t deemed globally threatened, it has experienced extensive habitat loss in some parts of its range.

Photo © Mark Whittaker