The Spotted Owl & the Endangered Species Act

The spotted owl is a threatened species, protected under the United States Endangered Species Act. There are three subspecies of spotted owl: the Northern spotted owl, the California spotted owl and the Mexican spotted owl. While only two of the three species are listed as endangered, there are efforts throughout the United States to have all three listed.

  1. Function

    • The United States Endangered Species Act protects species native to the United States that are endangered or threatened, which are animals considered heading for endangered status. It was passed in 1973 and the act's main goal is to prevent the extinction of certain species, including the spotted owl.


    • The California spotted owl is listed as Resolved Taxon, the Mexican spotted owl is Threatened and the Northern spotted owl is also listed as Threatened. Resolved Taxon means that the species is not listed and not a concern. Despite a petition in 2006 demanding the government place the California spotted owl on the list under the act as threatened or endangered, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service determined scientific evidence proved such action was not deemed necessary.


    • The Northern spotted owl was added to the Threatened Species List under the Endangered Species Act on June 26, 1990, primarily due to habitat loss and that the spotted owl was competing with the barred owl for territory and food. The Mexican spotted owl was listed on March 16, 1993 due to habitat loss.


    • The hot, dry climate where the Mexican spotted owl lives makes its habitat susceptible to devastating forest fires. Both species also have a small clutch size, laying only one to three eggs each season, which may also explain their lack of resiliency. Both the Northern spotted owl and the Mexican spotted owl are vulnerable to deforestation, and the destruction of their natural habitat is the main reason they are on the list under the Endangered Species Act.


    • The Northern spotted owl's range extends into the province of British Columbia on the Western coast of Canada. The Northern spotted owl is the most endangered bird in the entire country, and it's estimated that just over 10 breeding pairs live there.

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  • Photo Credit owl image by vashistha pathak from

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