Strigidae – Owls

Torotoroka Scops-Owl Otus madagascariensis ©Ken Behrens Website

Owls, my favourite birds
by Friedhelm Weick

Owls are outstanding birds! Is it their silent hunting in the poor evening light and at night, their distinctive appearance – huge head and forward looking eyes or maybe the echoes of ancient myths and tales of woodland goblins and bewitched owl-shaped princesses? However, since my childhood owls were my favourite birds. They even outranked my ambition for the diurnal birds of prey. As a wildlife artist, birder and ornithologists – I never lost my contact to these feather-armoured knights of the twilight. When in 1980 my book Birds of Prey of the World (Parey, Berlin) was printed, I had the idea for a similar project on the strigiformes of the world. So I began to collect every bit of information about this subject – and, remember: the Internet wasn’t in reach for the common wildlife artist then.

I filed scientific articles, photos and colour-copies of books, sketches and other descriptions back to 1758, photos from living owls in the wildlife or captivity. Detailed lists of measures and colours of skins, weights and feathers grew larger and larger. Beside that I visited zoological gardens, ornithological institutes and a lot of private owl-keepers, birders and ornithologists. In the early nineties I wrote three different annotated checklists about Strigiformes. The first included all recent complete taxa and their distribution. A second listed all-important measurements and weights linked to an index of photos and paintings. The third list was a full description of plumages and soft parts combined with a detailed bibliography.

In this situation Claus König head of the Natural Science Museum at Stuttgart and ambitioned ornithologist asked me if I would be interested in a project which should result in nothing minor than the standard guide to all owls of the world. The publisher would be Pica Press, Sussex. Of course I was, wasn’t I?

The three checklists were the basic-stock for our further work. In the following years I examined some thousands of skins and mounted owls in all-important museums of the world, only supported by my dear wife Christel. Within nearly three years I painted all different taxa and morphes that were sometimes known only by one skin…

In 1999 the book was published… leaving me more time for birding and outdoor projects and, last but not least for new paintings of my favourite birds, guess which?

Friedhelm Weick
Information © May 2002

Species List

According to the IOC there are 218 extant species of typical owls. They are:

Giant Scops Owl Otus gurneyi
White-fronted Scops Owl Otus sagittatus
Reddish Scops Owl Otus rufescens
Serendib Scops Owl Otus thilohoffmanni
Sandy Scops Owl Otus icterorhynchus
Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae
Andaman Scops Owl Otus balli
Flores Scops Owl Otus alfredi
Mountain Scops Owl Otus spilocephalus
Rajah Scops Owl Otus brookii
Javan Scops Owl Otus angelinae
Mentawai Scops Owl Otus mentawi
Indian Scops Owl Otus bakkamoena
Collared Scops Owl Otus lettia
Japanese Scops Owl Otus semitorques
Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji
Palawan Scops Owl Otus fuliginosus
Philippine Scops Owl Otus megalotis
Everett’s Scops Owl Otus everetti
Negros Scops Owl Otus nigrorum
Wallace’s Scops Owl Otus silvicola
Mindanao Scops Owl Otus mirus
Luzon Scops Owl Otus longicornis
Mindoro Scops Owl Otus mindorensis
Pallid Scops Owl Otus brucei
African Scops Owl Otus senegalensis
Arabian Scops Owl Otus pamelae
Eurasian Scops Owl Otus scops
Cyprus Scops Owl Otus cyprius
Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia
Socotra Scops Owl Otus socotranus
Moluccan Scops Owl Otus magicus
Rinjani Scops Owl Otus jolandae
Sula Scops Owl Otus sulaensis
Siau Scops Owl Otus siaoensis
Mantanani Scops Owl Otus mantananensis
Ryukyu Scops Owl Otus elegans
Sulawesi Scops Owl Otus manadensis
Sangihe Scops Owl Otus collari
Biak Scops Owl Otus beccarii
Seychelles Scops Owl Otus insularis
Simeulue Scops Owl Otus umbra
Enggano Scops Owl Otus enganensis
Nicobar Scops Owl Otus alius
Pemba Scops Owl Otus pembaensis
Karthala Scops Owl Otus pauliani
Anjouan Scops Owl Otus capnodes
Moheli Scops Owl Otus moheliensis
Mayotte Scops Owl Otus mayottensis
Torotoroka Scops Owl Otus madagascariensis
Rainforest Scops Owl Otus rutilus
Sao Tome Scops Owl Otus hartlaubi

Flammulated Owl Psiloscops flammeolus

Eastern Screech Owl Megascops asio
Western Screech Owl Megascops kennicottii
Balsas Screech Owl Megascops seductus
Pacific Screech Owl Megascops cooperi
Whiskered Screech Owl Megascops trichopsis
Tropical Screech Owl Megascops choliba
West Peruvian Screech Owl Megascops roboratus
Koepcke’s Screech Owl Megascops koepckeae
Bare-shanked Screech Owl Megascops clarkii
Bearded Screech Owl Megascops barbarus
Rufescent Screech Owl Megascops ingens
Colombian Screech Owl Megascops colombianus
Cinnamon Screech Owl Megascops petersoni
Cloud-forest Screech Owl Megascops marshalli
Tawny-bellied Screech Owl Megascops watsonii
Middle American Screech Owl Megascops guatemalae
Vermiculated Screech Owl Megascops vermiculatus
Roraiman Screech Owl Megascops roraimae
Napo Screech Owl Megascops napensis
Choco Screech Owl Megascops centralis
Yungas Screech Owl Megascops hoyi
Black-capped Screech Owl Megascops atricapilla
Long-tufted Screech Owl Megascops sanctaecatarinae
Puerto Rican Screech Owl Megascops nudipes
White-throated Screech Owl Megascops albogularis

Palau Owl Pyrroglaux podargina

Bare-legged Owl Margarobyas lawrencii

Northern White-faced Owl Ptilopsis leucotis
Southern White-faced Owl Ptilopsis granti

Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus
Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus
Lesser Horned Owl Bubo magellanicus
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo
Indian Eagle-Owl Bubo bengalensis
Pharaoh Eagle-Owl Bubo ascalaphus
Cape Eagle-Owl Bubo capensis
Spotted Eagle-Owl Bubo africanus
Greyish Eagle-Owl Bubo cinerascens
Fraser’s Eagle-Owl Bubo poensis
Usambara Eagle-Owl Bubo vosseleri
Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl Bubo nipalensis
Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus
Shelley’s Eagle-Owl Bubo shelleyi
Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl Bubo lacteus
Dusky Eagle-Owl Bubo coromandus
Akun Eagle-Owl Bubo leucostictus
Philippine Eagle-Owl Bubo philippensis
Blakiston’s Fish Owl Bubo blakistoni

Brown Fish Owl Ketupa zeylonensis
Tawny Fish Owl Ketupa flavipes
Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu

Pel’s Fishing Owl Scotopelia peli
Rufous Fishing Owl Scotopelia ussheri
Vermiculated Fishing Owl Scotopelia bouvieri

Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo
Mottled Wood Owl Strix ocellata
Brown Wood Owl Strix leptogrammica
Tawny Owl Strix aluco
Himalayan Owl Strix nivicolum
Omani Owl Strix butleri
Desert Owl Strix hadorami
Spotted Owl Strix occidentalis
Barred Owl Strix varia
Cinereous Owl Strix sartorii
Fulvous Owl Strix fulvescens
Rusty-barred Owl Strix hylophila
Chaco Owl Strix chacoensis
Rufous-legged Owl Strix rufipes
Ural Owl Strix uralensis
Pere David’s Owl Strix davidi
Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa
African Wood Owl Strix woodfordii
Mottled Owl Strix virgata
Rufous-banded Owl Strix albitarsis
Black-and-white Owl Strix nigrolineata
Black-banded Owl Strix huhula

Maned Owl Jubula lettii

Crested Owl Lophostrix cristata

Spectacled Owl Pulsatrix perspicillata
Tawny-browed Owl Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana
Band-bellied Owl Pulsatrix melanota

Northern Hawk-Owl Surnia ulula

Eurasian Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum
Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei
Pearl-spotted Owlet Glaucidium perlatum
Northern Pygmy Owl Glaucidium californicum
Mountain Pygmy Owl Glaucidium gnoma
Baja Pygmy Owl Glaucidium hoskinsii
Guatemalan Pygmy Owl Glaucidium cobanense
Costa Rican Pygmy Owl Glaucidium costaricanum
Andean Pygmy Owl Glaucidium jardinii
Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl Glaucidium nubicola
Yungas Pygmy Owl Glaucidium bolivianum
Colima Pygmy Owl Glaucidium palmarum
Tamaulipas Pygmy Owl Glaucidium sanchezi
Pernambuco Pygmy Owl Glaucidium mooreorum
Central American Pygmy Owl Glaucidium griseiceps
Subtropical Pygmy Owl Glaucidium parkeri
Amazonian Pygmy Owl Glaucidium hardyi
East Brazilian Pygmy Owl Glaucidium minutissimum
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl Glaucidium brasilianum
Pacific Pygmy Owl Glaucidium peruanum
Austral Pygmy Owl Glaucidium nana
Cuban Pygmy Owl Glaucidium siju
Red-chested Owlet Glaucidium tephronotum
Sjöstedt’s Barred Owlet Glaucidium sjostedti
Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium cuculoides
Javan Owlet Glaucidium castanopterum
Jungle Owlet Glaucidium radiatum
Chestnut-backed Owlet Glaucidium castanotum
African Barred Owlet Glaucidium capense
Albertine Owlet Glaucidium albertinum

Long-whiskered Owlet Xenoglaux loweryi

Elf Owl Micrathene whitneyi

Little Owl Athene noctua
Spotted Owlet Athene brama
Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia

Forest Owlet Heteroglaux blewitti

Boreal Owl Aegolius funereus
Northern Saw-whet Owl Aegolius acadicus
Unspotted Saw-whet Owl Aegolius ridgwayi
Buff-fronted Owl Aegolius harrisii

Rufous Owl Ninox rufa
Togian Boobook Ninox burhani
Powerful Owl Ninox strenua
Barking Owl Ninox connivens
Sumba Boobook Ninox rudolfi
Southern Boobook Ninox boobook
Morepork Ninox novaeseelandiae
Brown Hawk-Owl Ninox scutulata
Northern Boobook Ninox japonica
Chocolate Boobook Ninox randi
Hume’s Hawk-Owl Ninox obscura
Andaman Hawk-Owl Ninox affinis
White-browed Hawk-Owl Ninox superciliaris
Luzon Hawk-Owl Ninox philippensis
Mindanao Hawk-Owl Ninox spilocephala
Mindoro Hawk-Owl Ninox mindorensis
Romblon Hawk-Owl Ninox spilonotus
Cebu Hawk-Owl Ninox rumseyi
Camiguin Hawk-Owl Ninox leventisi
Sulu Hawk-Owl Ninox reyi
Ochre-bellied Boobook Ninox ochracea
Cinnabar Boobook Ninox ios
Hantu Boobook Ninox squamipila
Halmahera Boobook Ninox hypogramma
Tanimbar Boobook Ninox forbesi
Christmas Boobook Ninox natalis
Papuan Boobook Ninox theomacha
Manus Boobook Ninox meeki
Speckled Boobook Ninox punctulata
New Ireland Boobook Ninox variegata
New Britain Boobook Ninox odiosa
Solomons Boobook Ninox jacquinoti
Little Sumba Hawk-Owl Ninox sumbaensis

Papuan Hawk-Owl Uroglaux dimorpha

Jamaican Owl Pseudoscops grammicus
Striped Owl Pseudoscops clamator

Fearful Owl Nesasio solomonensis

Stygian Owl Asio stygius
Long-eared Owl Asio otus
Abyssinian Owl Asio abyssinicus
Madagascan Owl Asio madagascariensis
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus
Marsh Owl Asio capensis

Species Links
  • Burrowing Owls Athene cunicularia

    IUCN Species Status
  • Burrowing Owls Athene cunicularia

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Burrowing Owls Athene cunicularia

    Species Account
    The burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) is a small, long-legged owl found throughout open landscapes of North and South America. Burrowing owls can be found in grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas, deserts, or any other open dry area with low vegetation.
  • Burrowing Owls Athene cunicularia

    Cornell Species Account
    Owls are unmistakable birds, and that goes double for a long-legged owl that hunts on the ground during the day. Burrowing Owls are small, sandy colored owls with bright-yellow eyes.
  • Burrowing Owls Athene cunicularia

    Species Account
    The first published report of the Burrowing Owl was by Giovanni Iganzio Molina, an Italian Jesuit priest stationed in Chile. His description appeared in a book he wrote on the natural history of the country in 1782.
  • Little Owl Athene noctua

    IUCN Species Status
  • Little Owl Athene noctua

    Species Account
    The facial disc is not well defined, and is greyish-brown with light mottling. There are prominent whitish eyebrows. Eyes are sulphur-yellow to pale yellow, cere is olive-grey and bill is greyish-green to yellowish-grey. Forehead and crown are streaked and spotted whitish.
  • Little Owl Athene noctua

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Little Owl Athene noctua

    Species Account
    The little owl (Athene noctua) is a bird that inhabits much of the temperate and warmer parts of Europe, Asia east to Korea, and north Africa. It was introduced into Britain at the end of the nineteenth century and into the South Island of New Zealand in the early twentieth century.
  • Long-eared Owl Asio otus

    Species Account
    The long-eared owl (Asio otus, previously Strix otus) is a species of owl which breeds in Europe, Asia, and North America. This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as typical owls, family Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. The other grouping of owls are the barn owls, family Tytonidae....
  • Long-eared Owl Asio otus

    IUCN Species Status
  • Long-eared Owl Asio otus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Long-eared Owl Asio otus

    Cornell Species Account
    Long-eared Owls are lanky owls that often seem to wear a surprised expression thanks to long ear tufts that typically point straight up like exclamation marks.
  • Long-eared Owl Asio otus

    RSPB Species Account
    The long-eared owl is medium-sized owl, smaller in size than a woodpigeon.
  • Pernambuco Pygmy Owl Glaucidium mooreorum

    Species Account
    The Pernambuco pygmy owl (Glaucidium mooreorum) is a species of owl in the family Strigidae. This recently described species is endemic to Pernambuco in Brazil.
  • Pernambuco Pygmy Owl Glaucidium mooreorum

    Cornell Species Account
    The Pernambuco Pygmy-Owl is a northeast Brazilian endemic, apparently confined to the state of the same name, and one of the most poorly known of all Neotropical birds. It was described to science as recently as 2002, based on two specimens collected in Saltinho Biological Reserve in 1980, and the species is speculated to already be on the brink of extinction.
  • Pernambuco Pygmy Owl Glaucidium mooreorum

    IUCN Species Status
  • Pernambuco Pygmy Owl Glaucidium mooreorum

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Pernambuco Pygmy Owl Glaucidium mooreorum

    Species Account
    The Pernambuco Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium mooreorum) was first described in December 2002 when two study skins were examined in Pernambuco, Brazil. The skins were originally collected in 1980 and thought to be subspecies of the Least Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium minutissimum) or Amazonian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium hardyi). Upon closer examination of the skins, and vocalisations of the birds also obtained in 1980, it was concluded that this was a new species. The name mooreorum was chosen in honour of Dr. Gordon Moore and his wife Betty, who have made significant contributions to conservation…
  • Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus

    IUCN Species Status
  • Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus

    Species Account
    A Danish bishop and amateur naturalist, Erich Ludvigsen Pontoppidan, published the first description of this Owl in 1763…
  • Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus

    Species Account
    The short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) is a species of typical owl (family Strigidae). Owls belonging to genus Asio are known as the eared owls, as they have tufts of feathers resembling mammalian ears.
  • Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus

    Cornell Species Account
    This open-country hunter is one of the world's most widely distributed owls, and among the most frequently seen in daylight. Don't look too eagerly for the ear tufts, which are so short they're often invisible.
  • Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus

    RSPB Species Account
    Short-eared owls are medium sized owls with mottled brown bodies, pale under-wings and yellow eyes. They are commonly seen hunting during the day
  • Snowy Owl Nyctea scandiaca

    Cornell Species Account
    It appears that Snowy Owls can be aged and sexed fairly reliably in the hand using a number of feather shape and color characters (see Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, CA); the utility of these characters in field ID is much more limited. Although I doubt anyone could definitely assign "second year female" status to a bird not in the hand, owls encountered in the field can probably be put in a couple of general categories (adult male, first year or immature male, female). Below are some photos of specimens from the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates collection that illustrate these characters.
  • Snowy Owl Nyctea scandiaca

    Species Account
    The Snowy Owl was first classified in 1758 by Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish Swedish naturalist who developed binomial nomenclature to classify and organise plants and animals. The name scandiaca is a Latinised word referring to Scandinavia, as the Owl was first observed in the northern parts of Europe. Some other names for the Snowy Owl are Arctic Owl, Great White Owl, Ghost Owl, Ermine Owl, Tundra Ghost, Ookpik, Scandinavian Nightbird, White Terror of the North, and Highland Tundra Owl. It is the official bird of Quebec…
  • Snowy Owl Nyctea scandiaca

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
  • Snowy Owl Nyctea scandiaca

    Species Account
    The snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a large, white owl of the typical owl family. Snowy owls are native to Arctic regions in North America and Eurasia. Males are almost all white, while females have more flecks of black plumage. Juvenile snowy owls have black feathers until they turn white. The snowy owl is a ground nester that predominantly hunts rodents.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 218

Useful Reading
  • Owls

    | By Chris Mead, Mike Toms & Guy Troughton | Whittet Books | 2011 | 2nd Edition | Hardback | 152 pages, 9 colour photos, b/w illustrations | ISBN: 9781873580837 Buy this book from
  • Owls

    | By Valerie Bodden | Franklin Watts (UK) | 2015 | Paperback | 24 pages, colour illustrations | ISBN: 9781445138497 Buy this book from
  • Owls - A Guide to Every Species

    | By Marianne Taylor | The Ivy Press | 2017 | Hardback | 256 pages, colour photos, colour & b/w illustrations, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781782404040 Buy this book from
  • Owls In The Wild - A Visual Essay

    | By Rob Palmer | Amherst Media | 2018 | Paperback | 128 pages, colour photos | ISBN: 9781682033340 Buy this book from
  • Owls of the World

    | By James Duncan | New Holland Publishers | 2018 | Paperback | 192 pages, 120 colour photos | ISBN: 9781925546316 Buy this book from
  • Owls of the World - A Photographic Guide

    | By Heimo Mikkola | Christopher Helm | 2013 | Hardback | 528 pages, colour photos, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781472905932 Buy this book from
  • The Hidden Lives of Owls - The Science and Spirit of Nature's Most Elusive Birds

    | By Leigh Calvez | Sasquatch Books | 2016 | Paperback | 206 pages, 9 b/w illustrations | ISBN: 9781632170255 Buy this book from
  • The Owl Book

    | By Jane Russ | Graffeg | 2018 | Hardback | 160 pages, 100 colour photos and colour illustrations | ISBN: 9781912050420 Buy this book from
  • Hawk & Owl Trust

    Welcome to The Hawk and Owl Trust Website. Owls, hawks, eagles, falcons - magnificent birds like these symbolise freedom and wild places. The Hawk and Owl Trust is dedicated to ensuring that birds of prey survive in the wild for future generations to enjoy. Founded in 1969 because of concerns about the alarming decline in numbers of peregrines and other raptors, today we work to conserve all wild birds of prey and their habitats in the face of mounting human pressures
  • International Owl Society

    The intention being that this should provide a world-wide forum for all those interested in owls. Set out below are the objectives and intentions of this organisation and everybody with an interest in this Family are cordially invited to apply for membership. Most certainly the International Owl Society cannot succeed without an energetic and committed membership and the Council looks forward to receiving your active support. Any suggestions as to how the objectives and intentions may be expanded or amended to better reflect the interests of the Members are most welcome and will be carefully considered
  • World Owl Trust

    We are the only organisation that works solely on owl conservation on a global scale, and we have members in many countries around the world. Our conservation programmes are a last ditch attempt to protect populations of endangered owls until we have succeeded in restoring their habitat. This is the purpose of our Owl Centre. If we succeed in breeding from the birds we hold we can reintroduce them back into to the wild. This has already been achieved for the European Eagle Owl and British Barn Owl.
Other Links
  • Aves de Rapina Brasil

    Welcome to the biggest Brazilian website dedicated to raptors. The webmaster, Willian MenQ, is a graduate student in Biological Sciences. He works in conservation and ornithology in the region the northwest of the Paraná, studying raptors…
  • CD - All Europe's Owls

    Text in Swedish and English. 77 voices of all 13 European owl species, between 2 and 9 different voices per species. Not only territorials calls of males but even contacting calls, voices of females and owlets. CD, about 68 min…
  • Little Owl Athene noctua Group

    The little owl (Athene noctua) is a bird that inhabits much of the temperate and warmer parts of Europe, Asia east to Korea, and north Africa. It is not native to Great Britain and was first introduced in 1842 by Thomas Powys and is now naturalised there. It was also successfully introduced to the South Island of New Zealand in the early 20th century...
  • Long-eared Owl Asio otus

    The long-eared owl is medium-sized owl, smaller in size than a woodpigeon. It often looks long and thin, with head feathers (known as ear tufts even though they are not ears) which it raises when alarmed. It is buff-brown with darker brown streaks, and deep orange eyes. It breeds thinly across the UK with fewer birds in the south-west and Wales. Northern birds migrate southwards, including birds from Europe coming to spend the winter in the UK, while southern birds are residents and only move short distances to find food...
  • The Owl Pages

    Owls have fascinated man from time immemorial - to some cultures they are symbols of wisdom, while to others they are harbingers of doom and death. Here, the Owl Pages sheds some light on these mysterious creatures…
Photographers & Artists
  • Barred Owl Video

    A Cornell Lab of Ornithology video…
  • Barred Owls Strix varia Webcam

    The owl cam homepage; You are cordially invited to share in the adventures of a pair of Northern Barred Owls (Strix varia varia) as they raise their family in a nest box in Eastern Massachusetts
  • Boreal Owl Video

    A Cornell Lab of Ornithology Video…

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