Buff-fronted Owl - Aegolius harrisii
Calls - Aegolius harrisii
Introduction: The Buff-fronted Owl is an unmistakable colourful small owl with no ear-tufts, a short tail and large round head. This owl's specific epithet harrisii was named for American ornithologist Edward Harris (1799-1863).
[For help with terms used in the description, see parts of an owl. For general characteristics common to most owl species, see owl physiology.]
Description: The facial disc is round, with a narrow blackish rim, and bordered buffish. There are areas of blackish-brown from the top of each eye to the edge of the disc, bordering the ochre-buffish forehead. Eyes are yellow. Cere is yellowish-grey and the bill is yellowish to pale bluish-green. The chin has a dark brown or blackish bib that nearly merges into a thin blackish rim. The crown is blackish-brown. The mantle and back are dark chocolate-brown with a few rounded white and buffish spots. There is a narrow buffish-ochre nuchal collar, contrasting with the darker back.
Scapulars have several large buffish-ochre spots on the outer webs. The wings have whitish, rounded spots.
The tail is blackish with a white tip and two visible rows of rounded white spots on each web of feathers.
Breast and belly are plain yellowish-tawny to ochre-buff.
Tarsi are feathered to the base of the toes, which are bare and pale yellow with dark brown claws.
Size: Length 19-21cm. Wing length 142-167mm. Tail length about 80mm. Weight 104-155g.
Habits: Little known. The Buff-fronted Owl is an unsociable and nocturnal bird.
Voice: The male's territorial song consists of very rapid high-pitched trills with a 'quivering' character uttered in very rapid staccato (15-16 notes per second) and lasting about 7-10 seconds - Gurrrrrurrrrrrrurrrr. The general character of the call is somewhat irregular and wavering, as the phrase increases and decreases in volume.
A soft, single, high-pitched u call is probably a contact call.
A short series of accelerating staccato notes falling in pitch (bouncing ball call) seems to be an alarm call. It is often preceded by single, upward-inflected hoots with a wailing character - bu bu-bu-bubububub.
The female give a thin, very high-pitched tseet when calling for her mate for food.
Hunting & Food: Little known, probably feeds on small vertebrates and larger insects.
Breeding: The breeding habits of the Buff-fronted Owl are poorly known. The breeding season seems to vary according to climatic conditions. Nests are in tree cavities, especially woodpecker holes, of varying height above the ground.
Habitat: Primarily montane and cloud forest alternating with clearings and pastures, up to near timberline: wooded areas up to 3000m. Also occurs at lower altitudes in dense forest with tall trees and dense undergrowth.
Distribution: Andes from Venezuela to Ecuador and southward on the eastern slop to Northern Argentina. There have been some records from the eastern Paraguayan Chaco. Specimens have been collected on Cerro Neblina in Southern Venezuela. There is an isolated population in Eastern Brazil, from Goiás south to Rio Grande do Sul and Uruguay and adjacent regions of Paraguay and Argentina. Distribution seems scattered and local, and it is likely populations are yet to be discovered.
Distribution of the Buff-fronted Owl Aegolius harrisii
Status: Probably rare and locally absent. Listed as Near-threatened by BirdLife International.
Original Description: Cassin, John. 1849. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia (Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia) 4 (1848): p 157.
A. h. harrisii,
A. h. dabbenei,
A. h. iheringi
Page compiled by Deane Lewis. Page last updated 2013-05-28
OwlPages.com Owl Species ID: 230.040.000